Center for Digital Health

In this Social Media Connectivity Age, How Can Parents Help with Cyberbullying?

Helpful tips to support teens that experience cybervictimization.

cyberbullyingOver the course of 2020, we have seen drastic changes in the ways in which we communicate with others. For adolescents, this may mean using social media even more so than before. In a 2018 report, 95% of adolescents described their frequency of cellphone use as “almost constantly” (1). With upwards of 70% of adolescents reporting being victims of cyberbullying in 2018, increases in technology use during the Coronavirus pandemic may lead to increases in opportunities to encounter cyberbullying (3). This post is meant to provide informed advice on how parents can assist their teens if they notice signs of cyberbullying.

Manage Teens’ Moods After Encountering Cyberbullying

Understandably, when a teen has been a victim of cyberbullying they may feel withdrawn, angry, and/or upset. It may be beneficial for you as a parent to be calm and open to listening. This may be the best way you can support your teen in the moment and can help them to have a safe place for an open discussion. Engaging your teen in active listening by repeating back what they have said or summarizing in a non-judgmental way can help reinforce a safe and calming environment at home. It may also be beneficial to have a discussion with your teen about the good and not-so-good parts of being online. Keep this conversation going even after the event is over because the internet is changing almost as fast as your teen. By asking open-ended questions like “what do you think…” rather than “yes” or “no” you are able to give them the power of leading the conversation as well as offering an opportunity to give a detailed answer.

Avoid Bullying Online

Overall, it’s difficult to control how others will interact with your teen online but there are ways that they can present themselves that may help to decrease bullying. For example, trying to avoid sharing personal information online. Instead you could encourage your teen to talk to their friends or to you about personal issues that come up rather than posting it online. Another strategy is to have your teen step back and try to think about what they are posting before putting it online. This may include sending the post to a friend for advice or even saving it as a draft and coming back to it later to see if it’s still something they want to say. Finally, your teen can unfollow accounts or people who are bothering them or posting negative content. This may simply remove negativity from their feed and help increase their mood when going online.

Avoid Engaging in Bullying Behavior

It’s important that you encourage your teen to not engage with bullies and to discuss the consequences of taking such actions. Likely, the bully is looking for someone to respond, and by ignoring them you are removing their opportunity to engage in such behaviors. If your child does respond, then it is vital for them to do so in a calm and assertive manner, since retaliation and anger cam reinforce the bullying behaviors. It is good to identify an adult that your child feels comfortable going to when they notice cyberbullying. This may be a teacher, counselor, coach, or parent. Finally, if your teen feels comfortable, they can reach out to other teens they notice being bullied to be supportive and let that teen know someone is there to talk if they need it.

Encourage Positive Peer Interactions On and Offline

Build your teen's self-confidence and help them to have positive peer interactions on and offline. Teens that are victims of cyberbullying often report lower self-esteem when compared to teens who have not experienced cybervictimization (4). This can lead to decreases in school performance and the ability to build strong support systems. Having a strong support system can help buffer the negative effects of cybervictimization (2). This can be found in friends, family, sports teams, etc. By modeling healthy self-esteem and support systems, your teen will know what it looks like and can emulate it in their own lives.   

The best one can do as a parent is to be a safe source of support and understanding. Now that much of our communication and interactions are online due to COVID-19, this is the time to establish healthy communication with your teen. By establishing these precedents , you can help aid in safe and enjoyable internet use for your teen.  

 

References

  1. Anderson, M., & Jiang, J. (2018). Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/

(2) Hellfeldt, K., López-Romero, L., & Andershed, H. (2020). Cyberbullying and Psychological Well-being in Young Adolescence: The Potential Protective Mediation Effects of Social Support from Family, Friends, and Teachers. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(1), 45. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17010045

(3) Kann, L., McManus, T., Harris, W. A., Shanklin, S. L., Flint, K. H., Queen, B., Lowry, R., Chyen, D., Whittle, L., Thornton, J., Lim, C., Bradford, D., Yamakawa, Y., Leon, M., Brener, N., & Ethier, K. A. (2018). Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2017. MMWR Surveillance Summaries, 67(8), 1–114. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6708a1

(4) Patchin, J. W., & Hinduja, S. (2010). Cyberbullying and Self-Esteem*. Journal of School Health, 80(12), 614–621. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1746-1561.2010.00548.x