Parents, Here’s How You Can Help Your Children Defend Themselves From Cyberbullies
June 28, 2023
By Alexis Harold
Exclusively written for Dads Resource Center
Bullying has long existed before the internet. But with rising interconnectedness, it has become much easier for many to participate in aggressive and harmful behaviors online, which we call cyberbullying. A survey on teens and cyberbullying statistics found that almost half of United States (US) teens have been bullied or harassed online. These negative experiences include offensive name-calling, spreading false rumors about them, and receiving explicit images they didn’t ask for— with older teen girls experiencing harassment. Being a victim of online bullying can be especially harmful to kids’ mental health, worsening their feelings of isolation, rejection, and despair, as well as depression and anxiety.
Given these negative impacts, it’s critical that parents intervene and prevent cyberbullying. However, as we visited in a previous post on single fathers, single parents face extra challenges that can make it difficult to keep their children safe. As noted in the 2021 Annie Casey Foundation Kids Count Report, 23,756,000, or 18%, US children under 18 live in single-parent families. These children often have no access or limited access to their noncustodial parent and that parent’s extended family— making it more challenging for parents, particularly fathers, to offer support for children struggling with cyberbullying.
Still, parents can try to exert effort into guiding their kids on how to deal with this problem, whether by teaching them how to address this issue, helping build up their self-esteem, or showing them healthy coping mechanisms. In this article, we’ll visit how parents can stay vigilant and prevent cyberbullying:
How parents can stay vigilant of cyberbullying
Parents must be extra cautious of potential causes. Some groups, like LGBTQ youth, youth with disabilities, and socially isolated youth, may be at higher risk of bullying. For kids in single-parent families, the transition can also negatively impact a kid’s life by lowering their self-esteem and ability to defend themselves, which makes them susceptible to bullying.
Children and teens who experience cyberbullying often don’t reveal what’s happening, as they may feel ashamed about their situation. Some warning signs parents should watch out for include the following:
- Becoming withdrawn from friends and family
- Becoming nervous or sad during or after being online
- Avoiding school or having poorer class performance. Unlike face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying can happen almost anytime by anyone. Anonymous bullying is also common online, making tracing and addressing this bad behavior more difficult. To deal with these situations, it’s crucial to have an open line of communication to ensure parents and children can work together to handle problems healthily and prevent cyberbullying.
How parents can help kids through cyberbullying
Cyberbullying can negatively impact a child’s or teen’s mental health, so parents should guide their kids by acknowledging their feelings and leading them in coping strategies. One way parents can help their kids deal with stress and anxiety caused by cyberbullying is by practicing yoga with them.
Children and teenagers alike can maximize the benefits of yoga, which includes mind and body healing. As the exercise focuses on the mind-body connection, it enables youth to take the time to slow down, forget distractions, and focus on self-awareness and balance. This allows them to calm down and discover peace, helping them better deal with the stress caused by cyberbullying. Another practice to consider is art therapy, which can help children and adolescents who have gone through traumatic events. In one study during the pandemic, art therapy was found to have improved various aspects of youth mental health, sleep quality, and psychological well-being.
Furthermore, children should be educated on safeguarding themselves from cyberbullying, aside from coping mechanisms. Social media is where bullying usually happens, so it’s vital that people take advantage of the platform’s policies against them. Experts recommend documenting cases via screenshots and reporting instances of cyberbullying directly to the platform so any offensive material is removed. Children and teens should be wary of the information they post online, like their location, since malicious actors and bullies may use these to target them in person.
It can be challenging to avoid bullying altogether. But with more awareness, parents can help their children and teens through their circumstances and help them overcome any distressing emotions.
Alexis Harold is a freelance writer and editor. She writes about various topics but specializes in education and mental health. When not working on her next piece, she enjoys spending time with her two kids.