Do you worry about the world your teens face online? According to new research on teens and cyberbullying, you’d be right to be concerned. Luckily, there are some things parents can do to help.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month and a new survey by the Pew Research Center found that 59 percent of all teens have have been victims of cyberbullying. The survey found that these teens personally experienced at least one of six types of abusive behavior online, where the most common form of harassment was being called an offensive name. Nearly half of teens surveyed said they had experienced this kind of bullying online.
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The survey of 743 teens and 1,058 parents living in the United States also found that about one third of teens reported someone spreading false rumors about them online while another 16 percent said they has been the target of physical threats. While cyberbullying seemed to be experienced equally between girls and boys, girls were more likely to be the victims of online rumor-spreading.
So what can parents do to protect their kids online? Short of unplugging their teens from the internet—yeah, good luck with that—there are some simple steps you can take to help your kids deal with cyberbullying.
The first step, as Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center suggests, is to have a conversation with your teen. This might seem obvious, but bullying can be extremely difficult for kids and they may not feel comfortable speaking up about it on their own. It’s important to initiate an in-depth talk with your teens and let them know they are safe discussing anything with you. You should also make it clear what cyberbullying actually is, since in some cases it might not be obvious to kids what constitutes harassment.
With nearly two-thirds of teens experiencing some type of cyberbullying, it’s important to know how to react if it happens to your teen. As a parent, you will no doubt be angry, but it’s important to stay calm, as Katie Hurley LCSW, a child and adolescent psychotherapist, writes in Psychology Today. Hurley explains that it’s best to avoid any judgement and resist the urge to immediately try to fix things yourself.
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Instead, work together to come up with a plan. “Your teen needs help, but your teen also needs the autonomy to use problem-solving skills that work for her him,” Hurley suggests. “Brainstorm possible solutions, including the best point person at the school (this might a counselor or specific member of the administration), and work together.”
If your kids are the victims of cyberbullying make sure to document everything with screenshots. Then take the information to school administrators or other authorities. As Hurley writes, “Stories might lack details or seem different when teens are under pressure. Documenting your conversations will help you help your teen communicate what happened.”
Ultimately, ensuring that your kids know that they have your support and can turn to you with any problem is the best way to help them with any bullying they encounter, both offline and online.