Unlike bullying that occurs while a child is at school, cyberbullying has no physical boundaries and is capable of reaching children on their electronic devices 24/7, causing them to feel as if there is no escape and even that their home is no longer a safe haven. In observance of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, observed in October, Jillian Wojcik, assistant professor in the social and behavioral sciences department at Broward College, is offering tips on what to do if a child becomes a victim of cyberbullying:
Establish rules and know what your child is doing online. It is important to set boundaries and limits on a child’s cell phone, computer and other technology, including what sites they can visit and what they are allowed to do online. In addition, closely monitor your child’s online activities, such as what their favorite sites are to visit, and periodically review their online communications, if there is a reason for concern. Follow your child on social media, if possible.
Use privacy settings whenever possible. While discussing how to use the internet, also ask children to think about the information and photographs they post online, as well as who is able to view them – whether that is friends, friends of friends or complete strangers. People who are not a child’s friend can use information against them, so it is important to use privacy settings whenever possible so only friends can view their information.
Encourage children to report cyberbullying. Parents should remind their children that they should report any cyberbullying they may notice, even if it isn’t happening to them. Make sure they understand that their computer or cellphone will not be taken away. If your child is a victim, block the bully immediately, and utilize the privacy setting on the phone and social media accounts.
Document and keep cyberbullying evidence. Parents should keep threatening messages, pictures and texts, which can be used when the cyberbullying is reported to the bully’s parents, school administration, online service providers, or, possibly, law enforcement.