October is Bullying Prevention Month, and it is an important time to talk about how bullying can affect kids and teens, and what you can do as a parent to empower them to take action and help deal with the issues they themselves or their friends may be going through.
In a nationwide survey of U.S. parents and teens commissioned by a global online entertainment platform Roblox, 22 % of parents shared that their children have personally experienced some form of online bullying, and nearly 1 in 5 teens confirmed they’ve experienced online bullying within the previous 12 months. With stay-at-home requirements this year and most kids spending more time online, some of this behavior will likely have moved into the digital spaces kids and teens hang out in.
We spoke with kids and teens in the Roblox community and also got recommendations from experts at global organizations like The Diana Award and Project Rockit that are focused on raising resilient digital citizens and training young people to stand up instead of standing by. Here are their top 10 tips to share with your kid or teen to help them manage a hard situation they might be experiencing with online bullying:
1. Talk to someone about it. Alex Holmes, deputy CEO at The Diana Award, an organization providing resources and support for people who are experiencing bullying, recommends: “Let someone—anyone—know how you are feeling, sense check the situation by asking someone ‘this just happened, what do you think’? Often instead of worrying on your own you might get a different perspective or take on the situation which may lead to you feeling much better and lead to you feeling supported and valued.”
2. If you find it really hard to speak to someone, try writing a message. Holmes advises to consider sending a text or an email, or reaching out to an anonymous helpline or service. Some schools and colleges have anti-bullying ambassadors or peer support projects, and you might even find it helpful to get involved yourself.
3. Find your allies. A co-founder of Project Rockit, Australia’s youth-driven movement against (cyber)bullying, Lucy Thomas notes that while it sounds obvious, sometimes we need to ask people to stand up for us: “This doesn’t mean picking a fight with the person who is giving you a hard time. Instead, they could try interrupting nasty comments with a distraction, or posting positive content to show they have your back. If your opponent knows you have people on your side, they are less likely to continue hassling you.” By the way, some good news: in our survey of nearly 600 teens, almost everyone (96%) said they’re likely to help a friend they see being bullied online!
4. Don’t let others take over your problem. While it’s important to seek help, another recommendation from The Diana Award is not to let others overtake your issue. Instead you can say: “I’d like you to listen, and perhaps we can solve this together.’” Then come up with a strategy together that feels good to you.
5. Look after yourself. Bullying can take its toll on emotional wellbeing, so make sure you surround yourself with people you like and do things that make you happy. Also, look after the physical side; you need to eat well and sleep.
6. Remember that you are strong. “When someone treats you in the wrong way, it affects our emotions, feelings and mood,” explains Holmes adding that it’s natural to feel upset or vulnerable, but that doesn’t make you weak. “We should try and remember the strength each and every one has inside of us. The talent and skills you possess, the great friend you are to others and the potential you have to make the world a better place. What’s happening to you isn’t ok but it doesn’t define you, and things will get better.”
7. Use self-moderation tools like block and report on Roblox (or similar tools on other platforms) as recommended by our community saying: “These are powerful tools that give you back control. Make sure you know how to use them on all the apps and websites you use.” Parents can also report bad actors or inappropriate content together with their kids which helps them understand what to do and shows solidarity.
8. Resist the urge to retaliate. Project Rockit experts stress that there is no sense in repaying hate with hate: “Retaliating only keeps the cycle going. Besides, we’ve got to keep in mind that those who hate from behind a screen are not truly anonymous. Neither are you!” You definitely don’t want to provide your attackers with ammunition that could be used against you later. If you stay strong in treating others online as you would offline, you’ll find it much easier to remain connected to who you really are, even in the face of (cyber)bullying.
9. Help a friend or others targeted by online hate. So what if you see someone being bullied? Thomas notes that one of the most awful parts of (cyber)bullying is feeling totally humiliated in front of a huge public audience—this is a super isolating experience. That’s why she recommends, “Even if you aren’t confident enough to stand up for someone in the moment or it doesn’t feel safe, you can still send them a private message or chat with them face-to-face to let them know you don’t agree with the way they’re being treated. It seems small but can honestly change a person’s life.” Be cautious if you plan to challenge the person directly; you don’t want to escalate the problem but it’s ok to say you don’t like what they’re doing.
10. Make your world a better place. The team at The Diana Award shared some words of empowerment saying: “If you’ve experienced bullying, what you went through wasn’t great, but hopefully you resolved it and became stronger and more resilient as a consequence. Now use that experience as a learning or teaching moment, empower others who find themselves in a similar situation, guide them and stand up quietly or loudly when you next see the same sort of behavior.”