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A Parent's Guide to Getting Ahead of Cyber Bullying

Most parents are aware of the myriad of dangers that present themselved to their children online - stalking, harassment, paedophilia, human trafficking - it's enough to want any parent to take away computers and phones to protect their children. But with the rapid increase in online learning, a trend that is unlikely to go away now that it has been introduced, parents need to have all the tools in their arsenal to fight. Today we are going to talk about cyber bullying, which unlike many of the other dangers, is often perpetrated peer to peer.

How is cyber bullying different than regular bullying?

  • Anyone can anonymously assume the role of the bully - from a classmate to a peer to a stranger

  • The anonymity can intensify the cruelty - bullies are cowards and their attacks can intensify while hidden behind a computer or phone

  • We have already seen all too well with adults in the social media age that anonymity reduces or removes any empathy that might have been there in person

  • Victimization is 24/7 - there is no relief when school is out, when team practice ends

  • The impact is instant, many times it is shared widely so the reach can be enormous.

Around 90 percent of people who witness their peers being bullied online ignore it. Their reason is manifold: they’re afraid to become the bully’s new victim, they think it isn’t their business, or they avoid stepping up for some other reason. This is a statistic we see with regular bullying and hazing but with online can increase.

So what can a parent do?

Recently there have been a number of tech tools introduced to try and combat online dangers. Start ups, such as Bark in Atlanta, GA USA, address this issue by working in partnership with parents to screen social media use and alert parents to the dangers. But there are plenty of good old fashioned tips parents can use as well.

The website addresses the differences between verbal, physical, social and cyber bullying and includes the following tips for teens and students who are being bullied:

  • Keep your distance from the bully if you can

  • Don’t bully them back

  • Tell them what they are doing is not ok

  • Talk to an adult you trust

  • Take time to do something nice for yourself

  • Have someone help you report the issue

Talk with your children and teens. This is an issue that can be discussed in partnership. Pretty much any student is aware of a peer who has been harassed, and they may very well have been harassed themselves. Perhaps they know a bully and it makes them uncomfortable to address it with them. Approach the discussion in personal terms - perhaps relaying an incident that you experienced when you were their age.

Assure them that you are not policing them but supporting them. The idea is to teach them resilience. Empower them with the tools to know what to do if something arises. Alert them not to go along with the bully and unwittingly become part of the problem. Many students feel they are alone. By talking about it, you can shine a light on the problem and let them know they are not,

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