Top 10 Steps You Should Take to Respond to Cyberbullying

Guest Blogger, Carrie Goldman on behalf of  Kidguard

Cyberbullying is an issue that affects us all: grown men and women, teenagers, tweens, and even children. It can eat up a shocking number of mental and physical hours each day, especially given the amount of time we spend with screens.

No one is immune. Whether you are a female gamer, a celebrity, or just a kid trying to navigate the social scene on Instagram, you can encounter unparalleled levels of viciousness online.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly 8 hours a day with different media, and older children and teens spend more than 11 hours per day.  About 75 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds own cell phones, and nearly all teenagers use text messaging.

As a result, kids and adults can access social media at any time of day or night.   In speaking recently with a group of young teens, they told me how thoughts of social media often consume their time. Anxious curiosity compels the students to seek out what others are saying about them.

“And even if no one is saying anything bad about me, I feel stressed out when I see pictures on Instagram of people hanging out, and I’m not there,” explained Ellen, an eighth-grader at a Chicagoland school.

This phenomenon is called FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out, and it affects both kids and adults who watch other people post about their social interactions online.  Even kids and adults who have active, healthy social lives can feel paranoid about not being included in online conversations.

FOMO is a separate issue from the victimization of cyberbullying, but both create anxiety and stress. These feelings can ramp up dramatically and include panic attacks and depression when you are being directly attacked online. First, take a moment to ascertain that you are actually being bullied instead of suffering from FOMO.

10 steps to take in response to cyberbullying

What Forms Does Cyberbullying Take?

  • Sending hurtful or threatening messages about another person
  • Posting sensitive, private information about a person for the purpose of hurting or embarrassing that person
  • Pretending to be someone else in order to make that person look bad and/or to intentionally exclude someone from an online group
  • Making cruel websites about a person
  • Spreading rumors online or through texting 

Some schools claim they are unable to respond to cyberbullying because online misbehavior often takes place off school property.  But this excuse is no longer valid.

Justin Patchin, Ph.D., of the Cyberbullying Research Center, advises the following standards: schools CAN discipline students if their online expressions result in a “substantial disruption of the learning environment,” or if their actions “infringe upon the rights of another student (to feel safe, comfortable, and supported at school).”

Even if the cyberbullying takes place on sites that kids cannot access during school hours, such as Instagram, YikYak, Snapchat or Twitter, the school can take action if the effects of the cyberbullying spill over into the school environment.

Cyberbullying Intervention: Top Ten Steps to Take If Digital Attacks Are Happening

If you end up in a hostile situation, it can feel very overwhelming.  Having a plan can help you restore some control.  Here are the top ten steps you or your child should take in response to being cyberbullied, as recommended in my award-winning book on bullying:

1. Disengage immediately.  Bullies want a direct reaction, and if you retaliate, this behavior can make you culpable too.

2. Print out the evidence immediately before others can erase it. Be sure to do this before reporting the bullying. Download copies of any YouTube videos as evidence before the YouTube user who uploaded it can delete it.

3. Block/delete/ban the bullies.

4. Report bullying to the site or network on which it occurs.  They may deactivate the bully’s user account.

5. Consult an attorney to assess if there is a legal case.

6. Take the proof to the school, the workplace, and if necessary, the police.

7. Monitor yourself or the target for signs of overwhelming depression or anxiety, and seek out counseling if necessary.

8. Help a target get involved in the “real world” and see real friends.

9. Have the target join a support group for kids or adults who have been cyberbullied.

10. Do not sleep with your phone in your room.


Digital Allies: Steps to Take If You Witness A Friend Being Cyberbullied

Kids who click “like” on a mean social media post or who retweet a cruel Tweet are just as guilty as the person who created the content. Here are some tips for how kids can act as an ally instead of as a participant or a bystander.

  • Focus on supporting the person who is being attacked instead of launching a retaliatory attack against the aggressor.  The goal is to make a bullied person feel better, not to start an online war that turns into real-life violence and aggression.
  • Ask your child to reach out to the target and offer empathy or a listening ear.  Even a kind text message makes a huge difference.
  • Have your child take a screenshot of the bullying.  Evidence is critical.
  • Have your child report the bullying to the school.

The most important thing you or your child can do is remind a bullied person that things will eventually improve.  The current scandal of the day will pass, as painful as it feels right now.  You can get through this; you are strong.

Carrie Goldman is the award-­‐winning author of Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear (Harper Collins, 2013). She travels around the country educating companies, schools and community groups about bullying prevention, intervention, and reconciliation. She also serves as the Curriculum Director for the Pop Culture Hero Coalition


Protecting Your Teen from Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a hot topic right now. I thought it would be beneficial for all of us to gather some information about how to communicate and protect our kids from it. I am delighted to introduce Amy Williams a parent of two teens and a former social worker, specializing in teen behavioral health.

cyberbullying 2

Technology has become such an integral part of our lives that, unfortunately, cyberbullying has become nearly impossible to escape for many teens. What makes this a significantly different problem from regular bullying is that cyberbullying follows teens wherever they take their laptops or smartphones. However, as with many problems, staying informed is one of the best ways to start taking action against it.

Two Big Factors

  • Boys especially like hiding the things they’re doing online. However, in most cases, they don’t actually need to hide their activities. Nobody really likes being snooped on, but the teenage obsession with hiding things feels a lot like paranoia.
  • Bullying is much more common online than it may seem. Kids generally fall into one of two categories when it comes to seeing stuff they don’t like.
  • “Empowered” kids, who have already figured out how to manipulate the technology they’re using and configure it to block messages from people they don’t like. A few have even gone as far as reporting bullies (which, sadly, doesn’t seem to do much on most social media sites), but their response to bullying is more-or-less laughing at it.
  • The other group of kids tend to stress out about the messages they see – they’re still vulnerable to hurtful messages, and oftentimes have trouble learning how to laugh off online threats and insults.

Now, the really weird part is how influenced these behaviors are by how the kids view technology. I’m not sure how true this is for everyone, but kids who like technology more seem to be less fazed by cyberbullying than kids who see technology as a problem – and yes, those types of kids exist too.

Preventative Action

A good first step to take in preventing cyberbullying is figuring out what type of responses your kids are having if you really want to help them get past it. Here are a few good options for parents:

  1. Monitoring Apps. This is totally snooping, but let’s face it, we snoop on their activities anyway until they show they’re mature enough to be independent or creative enough to get around us. If we’re going to keep tabs on them, then we might as well be doing it right.
  2. Family Discussions. Sometimes all you need to do is ask your child what they’d do if they saw a message they didn’t like – and it’s even better if you ask them to show you what they’d do. If they do well, give the little guy (or girl) some praise – hugs are a great choice.
  3. Watching Them. If your kid suddenly puts their phone down, looking rather upset, then there’s a pretty good chance they were just bullied somehow. Either that or someone spread a video you’ll wish you could watch out of your mind. Talk about it, but don’t intrude too far.

What do you think? Is there anything special you’re doing to help your children deal with cyberbullying? See the infographic below for more information.

Author_Amy Williams

Amy Williams is a journalist based in Southern California. As a mother of two, she has learned a lot of things the hard way, and hopes to use her experience as a parent to help other parents raise their children to be the best that they can be.

Follow Amy on Twitter




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