As a parent, you should know that playgrounds and schoolyards aren’t the only places where bullies hang out. They also stalk others cyberspace.
“Bullies now will use the Internet, cellphones or other technology to hurt or embarrass someone,” said Mary Jeanne Pies at Franciscan St. Francis Health Behavioral Health Services. “It’s a common problem among teens.”
Examples of cyberbullying are the sending hurtful, rude or mean text messages and the emailing of rumors or lies about someone or posting them on social networks.
If you think or know that your child is being cyberbullied, Pies suggests:
• Don’t ignore the problem or hope it will go away. Talk to your child about it and reassure him or her that the situation can be handled.
• Tell your child not to respond to the bullying — it may only make it worse.
• Block the person who is cyberbullying. Many websites and phone companies will let you do this.
• Document bullying incidents, and report threats or other criminal behavior to the police.
• Check with your child to make sure the cyberbullying has stopped. If not, contact the appropriate people, websites or companies again or talk with an attorney. Kids who are bullied are at risk for having emotional and physical problems, including increased thoughts about suicide.
If you learn that it is your child or teen who is doing the bullying, you might begin by exploring with him or her the thoughts, feelings and motives that led to this behavior.
As difficult as it may be, discontinue social networking access and restore gradually with new rules in place. You can implement stronger parental controls, using software that will capture all online activity and strictly limit online time.
Parents can emphasize the seriousness of these behaviors by having your child or teen read two different legal cases involving cyberbullying: “Phoebe Prince” of Massachusetts and “Megan Meier” of Missouri. Both can be found on the Internet. Search for other resources or movies, such as “Cyberbully.” 317-783-8477 for other resources.
A final step is for parents to help their child or teen think of ways he or she might want to repair the damage and make amends.
To make an appointment with the Franciscan St. Francis Health Behavioral Health Services, call 317-783-8383.