How to deal with cyberbullying – whether your child is a victim or perpetrator
What to do when your child is being impacted by cyberbullying
Ever heard your kids talking about “receipts”? Well, it’s probably not the shopping statement you’re thinking of, but likely the “evidence” of someone’s actions or words – usually in the form of screenshots, photos or videos.
While these “receipts” can be harmless, they also have the power to be used as social ammo to cyberbully others. A common example is when screenshots of private conversations are shared online, with the goal of publicly humiliating someone.
A study by the Ministry of Education in October 2020 found that students in New Zealand experience some of the highest rates of bullying in the world. ^And now there are constantly new ways to communicate being developed, this means there are more ways for bullies to bully their victims. In fact, our nib 2023 State of the Nation Parenting Survey* uncovered that 47% of Kiwi parents surveyed were concerned about their child being a victim of online bullying, and 37% were concerned about their child being a perpetrator (up from 30% in 2022).
To encourage healthy online behaviour in your child, check out our top tips for combatting both sides of this issue.
Don’t take your child’s device away
Your first instinct might be to remove your child from where the bullying is occurring, but this can limit access to their support networks, such as friends or other forums they seek help from.
It can also make your child more likely to hide things from you and prevent them from practicing healthy online behaviours, both as a victim or perpetrator.
Understand the situation
It can be difficult for children to reveal that they’ve been cyberbullied. It’s important to listen and then respond in a calm, supportive manner so they’re more willing to talk about the details.
Rather than taking action on their behalf, try asking them what they’d like to do about the situation, and how you can best support. This will make them feel less helpless, and empower them to find a healthy solution.
What to do if you suspect your child is a perpetrator
You’ve likely heard the expression, “hurt people hurt people”, so try to identify possible motivators behind their actions.
How are your child’s relationships with the rest of the family? Have they experienced or witnessed examples of bullying in the home? Could someone else be bullying them? Are they doing it to feel accepted?
This can be confronting, but getting to the root cause will likely make it easier to deal with the issue at hand and be much more effective in changing behaviour.
Discuss empathy regularly, including how that looks online.
Just because it’s happening behind a screen, don’t dismiss the severity of it. Use questions like “How would you feel if someone said this about you online?” to evoke thoughts around the emotional impact of bullying.
Having an open dialogue about online behaviour can help catch things before they become serious and can also serve as a general wellbeing check.
As technology continues to further infiltrate our lives, building a strong sense of empathy within our children will help stamp out bullying, both online and in-person.
^ https://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/203575/He-Whakaaro-What-do-we-know-about-bullying-behaviours-in-NZ.pdf The survey was conducted by One Picture and canvassed 1,206 parents, step-parents and guardians of children under 18 nationally. The survey was conducted between 12th – 22nd June 2023