It can be really worrying to read that 9 out of 10 young people experiencing cyberbullying don’t feel comfortable chatting to an adult about it. If only 10% of teenagers going through something that bad speak up, what can you do to help them open up? There are so many reasons young people feel scared to say something, like embarrassment and shame, fear that they won’t be believed, fear of having the whole thing trivialised, and being afraid that you’ll cut off their access to technology.
So let’s have a look at how you as parents can be proactive so that your teenagers stay safe and feel okay chatting to you and other adults about a mean Instagram comment or hurtful Snapchat.
Make your teen feel comfortable coming to you with a problem
Let your teen know that cyberbullying is not okay (and not their fault) and that you are always there to help them. You could start by:
- asking them what sites and apps they use so you have an idea of the kind of situations that might come up,
- use some sites and apps together, so they feel cool chatting with you about what they experience online
- be positive about the online world and the awesome stuff that’s out there
- speak regularly (and try to stay casual) about what they’re doing online so it’s easier for them to talk to you if something goes wrong.
Give them an action plan for when, or if, they feel attacked
Even if you’re doing everything right your teen might still feel a little weird coming to talk to you about cyberbullying. By giving them a clear set of instructions on what to do if something happens they’ve got the tools to take action themselves even if they’re not ready to chat.
- Don’t feed the trolls – ignore silly comments.
- Untag your name or photo from posts you don’t like.
- Block people who are posting things you don’t like.
- Unfriend people who are being mean to you or your friends.
- Sometimes your teen might not want to unfriend somebody (it can be a pretty big statement) but let them know on platforms like Facebook they can just unfollow which means none of that person’s posts will come up in their feed but it won’t look like they’ve cut them out.
- Report people who are cyberbullying to the website or app admin.
- Get help from a parent or adult when you’re worried.
Help them keep themselves safe
Talk to your teen about how it’s probably a good idea to only friend and chat with people on social media that they know in real life. Also make sure they understand these two golden rules:
- ‘Don’t give away too much to people you don’t completely trust. It really sucks, but they could use what you tell them against you or pass it on to others.’
- ‘Don’t ever send a picture you don’t want the world to see. When you hit send you lose control of it; it’s out there forever and could come back to embarrass you.’
Protect their devices and accounts
Make sure that the privacy settings are up to date on all of your teen’s social media accounts so they’re not publicly accessible. And talk to your teen about other things like:
- making sure they know how to protect their accounts and devices
- never sharing or giving out their passwords
- turning phones, tablets and laptops off when they’re not using them.
The Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner can also help with cyberbullying by getting things removed from sites for you. All you have to do is fill in a complaint form on their website.
Before going down this route:
- contact the social media provider and report the abuse, keep proof you’ve done this and remember the date you reported it
- gather as much evidence as you can like screenshots, videos links and any messages.
Making a complaint to the eSafety Commissioner is the best way to go if you have reported the cyberbullying to the social media provider and the posts haven’t been taken down within 48 hours.
Keeping your teenager safe from cyberbullying is pretty tough. With new apps popping up constantly and social lives revolving around the online world it can seem like an impossible job. But if get a step ahead of the game and be open with your teen they’re more likely to chat to you and you’re more likely to be able to help. For more check out ReachOut Parents cyberbullying resources.