Disclosure: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.
Have you ever had to deal with cyberbullying? Was it you or your child that was being bullied? It seems that people become mighty warriors behind the facade of an online presence and the comfort of a monitor. I know, I have seen it happen time and time again. But when it happened to my daughter a whole new part of me took over.
Dealing with Cyberbullying
Imagine thinking that people you thought were your friends are actually the ones out to make your life miserable. That is what happened to my oldest daughter 3 years ago. Two teenagers, a boy her age and a girl a year older, decided to make it part of their routine to constantly bully my daughter online. The sad part? They were also my son’s best friends. So, as they were playing the best friend role in his life… they were attacking his sister behind-the-scenes. Tearing her down almost daily and I would have to step in and build her back up.
Plus, since my teens have been homeschooled since the 1st and 2nd grade, these were friends that had met within the walls of the church. The place where they had formed many friendships and lasting memories. But these two were not exactly applying the words they were being taught within the Sunday school classes and church services. Instead, they found more joy in putting others down and destroying the sanity of those of us within our family. Pitting my son and daughter against each other (where they had always been inseparable before)… to the point where I had to put my foot down and severe all ties with both of them.
This was after months of trying to stop the bullying. I went through every step I knew to follow. As a parent, I let the best of my emotions get to me from time to time when I stepped into the middle of the online messages… but I had watched my daughter endure enough. After going through all the proper adult channels I could (their parents refused to meet with us) my next step was to take all the evidence I had to the police. It was at this point that they knew I was serious. They left the church. No longer contacted my daughter. Left my son’s emotions raw and damaged. And we had a healing process to begin. All because of two malicious teens and their idea of amusement.
What steps did I take? Well, let me share a few tips for dealing with Cyberbullying I found during my research:
- Save the evidence – This is perhaps the most important step. When these two teens tried to deny what they had said to my daughter, it was very easy for me to pull up the screenshots and transcripts of exactly what they said. We even went as far as to contact our mobile provider and request transcripts of text messages and call logs. It is difficult to deny what is clearly shown in black and white.
- Remain civil – As a parent, this was where I failed a few times. When the bullying became malicious, it took everything I had to remember I was talking to teenagers on the other side of that screen. But, my daughter showed me every message and was not allowed to respond without doing so. We crafted each response back (the few times we did respond) with gentle words. Hard but necessary. It may be best to not respond at all though.
- Block the bully – We did this. We blocked both of them through every aspect of social media… but they simply began calling and texting. Or worse, they would throw dirty looks or passing shoves when they saw her in person. But, if you have no real life interaction with the bully, this could be an excellent deterrent.
- Tell a trusted adult – In our case, I began with an adult close to all of the teens: our youth pastor. New to the church, it was difficult for him to understand the history between the kids, but he saw enough on his own to get the big picture. He offered counseling to both parties but there is only so much you can do when one party does not want to make it better.
- Reports threats to police – Fortunately, when I threatened to take all my evidence to the police, it was enough to stop the bullying altogether. That is not always the case. If there had ever been an inappropriate message that included sexual misconduct or harmful threats, I would have skipped go and ran straight to the police. In some circumstances, there simply is no room for interpretation.
Having experienced this with my oldest, I am even more cautious with my younger girls. We remind them daily about how to be safe online. They are almost to the point of eye rolls with our reminders… but they understand all the same. Our biggest safety tips include:
- Never use your real name. HUGE for us since so much of our life is already shared online
- Never share your address, city, school name, church, etc. with people online
- Never share passwords
- Don’t tell online friends when we will be out of town
- Tell us when someone is inappropriate or mean
- Always be a friend online
What tips do you give your kids to keep them safe online?
The Boys & Girls Club of America has developed CyberSafeFutures.org to help adults and children better understand how to stay safe online. Through videos, discussion cards, and other resources, you and your child can learn to recognize signs of cyberbullying and what to do if it occurs.
Plus, take their Cyber Survivor Challenge Quiz and test your own cyber smarts in relation to keeping your kids safe online. I was a Cyber Survivor. Whew! What were your results?