Cyberbullying is a topic parents often hear about in the news or read about online. But what's less discussed about this topic are tips for parents to protect their kids from cyberbullying, an epidemic that affects countless kids across the United States. And on that note, here are six action items parents can use to help their children navigate bullying online.
In case you didn't know already, October is National Bullying Prevention Month. PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center launched the initiative in 2006 to "educate and raise awareness of bullying prevention," the organization's website states.
Dedicating a month to anti-bullying initiatives has "helped shift thinking away from bullying as 'rite of passage' and toward the knowledge that bullying can be prevented and stopped through education and awareness," the org continues.
As for why National Bullying Prevention Month is so important? A study conducted by researchers at Florida Atlantic University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UW-EC) found that out of 5,600 students between the ages of 12 to 17 years old, "34 percent" of those kids "had experienced cyberbullying in their lifetime," according to Science Daily.
On the flip side, "12 percent of the students admitted that they had cyberbullied others at some point in their lifetime," according to Science Daily.
But what's especially troubling is the overlap between cyberbullying and bullying at school.
"We have long known that there is a significant overlap between school and online bullying," Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., explained, according to Science Daily. "For example, 83 percent of the students who had been cyberbullied within the last 30 days also had been bullied at school recently, and 69 percent of the students who admitted to bullying others at school also bullied others online."
Of course, it can be easy to get lost in the bigger picture of bullying prevention, especially when you lack the expertise to properly address these issues. While most parents are aware that cyberbullying presents various dangers, many people don't know how to combat these threats.
So, how can you and your family tackle the tough topic of cyberbullying? Look no further than these tips courtesy of the Microsoft Store, who partnered with cyberbullying experts to create an infographic geared towards bullying prevention.
What's even better? The Microsoft Store created Stand Up to Bullies GIFs for young people to use if they ever find themselves in a tough situation.
One of the most power things a parent can to do is listen. The Microsoft Store recommends parents listen "carefully" and "empathetically" to their children if they suspect cyberbullying is going on. Wait until after your kid is done filling you in on their version of events and feelings to share your feedback.
Never hesitate to reach out to a trusted health professional or school official if you think your child — or another child — could become a victim of physical violence. The infographic also encourages parents to call the police if they believe the situation warrants it.
If your child suspects someone is being cyberbullied, encourage them them to speak up.
"Empower them to discuss how to stand up for the target, if safe, and report it," the Microsoft Store recommends.
In the case that your child is the aggressor, try to "understand" what is motivating their behavior.
"Be supportive, but stress it is never okay to bully. Discuss how to make amends," the infographic points out.
Silence should never be an option if your child is experiencing cyberbullying. Encourage them to talk about what's going on, and encourage them to "report" any instances of concern.
Take An Interest
Most importantly, take an interest in your child's online life. Knowing where your child interacts with their friends is crucial to helping them out when the time comes.
"Friend them. Have them you show you around," the Microsoft Store recommends.
In addition to these tips, the Microsoft Store will "host new, free 'Preventing and Combating Cyberbullying' workshops that help provide guidance and solutions to identify the various forms of cyberbullying while emphasizing actionable advice in a safe and understanding environment, at all Microsoft Stores in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico," according to its website.
Additionally, the workshops will "equip students with the easily accessible resources they need to feel safe when using technology," and it will combine "information and actionable tips, teaching parents how to identify the problem, while helping students create an action plan to cope with current and future situations," its website continues.
If you want to register for these workshops, you can do so online or at your local Microsoft Store.
Cyberbullying is an issue you and your child should work on together. Don't hesitate to reach out to an expert if you need a little help with bullying prevention resources because there are plenty of organizations and stakeholders out there who have your back.