Mom and daughter on the computer

Addressing cyberbullying with children

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 by Sam Wink

When it comes to pink shirts, kindness is one size fits all. It’s worn by hundreds of thousands of people across the world for one day in February: Pink Shirt Day. The annual event started small in 2007 when two high-school students in Nova Scotia took a stand and called on students to wear pink to school to show support for their male classmate who was teased for wearing pink to school.

Identifying bullying in-person is easier than its online counterpart. With today’s youth spending more and more time connected to the internet on a myriad of devices, cyberbullying is now the most common form of bullying. Kids can bully their peers anonymously online with the swipe of their finger using their ‘weapon’ of choice: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or the new app of the month.

Parents can feel like they lack the technological know-how to help protect their children, or even identify that anything is happening at all. Short of confiscating all electronic devices, it can be hard to curb any bullying a child may experience online.

So what actions can we take to stop cyberbullying?

  • Be engaged with your children. By taking a passive interest in what your child’s online activities are, you can open up a non-judgemental dialogue that not only makes you easier to approach but also gives you an insight to their interests.
  • Establish rules of conduct and appropriate behavior, educate your child on posting and privacy, and if your child did not come to you right away for support, do not place blame. Let them know you are grateful they have come to you now.
  • Help your child take preventative measures online to block cyberbullies from contacting them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Report cyberbullies to the service providers where the cyberbullying occurred. Responsible sites should take immediate action against cyberbullying incidents.

There are many reasons that youth suffer silently: they may be afraid you’ll react by restricting their online access, embarrassed that they can’t take care of the bullying themselves, afraid that you’ll handle things in a way that escalates the bullying or that you won’t understand and minimize the problem. Talking to your child about cyberbullying does a lot to help soothe these worries, but listening to your child does even more.

If you’re unsure as to how to talk to your child about cyberbullying and online safety, check out some of the following resources:

YWCA Canada’s Guide for Supporting Girls and Young Women Navigating Life Online

Family Online Safety Institute

BC Government Online Safety