Cyberbullying: How parents can help their kids.
Naperville Sun HealthAware column:
Six ways parents can help when kid is cyberbullied
September 17, 2012
“It’s a parent’s worst fear.” You hear TV news reporters say that about kidnappings. But a 2010 study of close to 400 parents suggests parents of kids 12 to 17 years old fear bullying and cyberbullying even more than they fear kidnapping or car accidents.
Why such a strong reaction? Today’s electronic bullying can be particularly troublesome with its 24/7 use of texting, camera phones, email and social networking. The hurtful rumors, insults, fake profiles and embarrassing pictures can be quickly and widely shared, and then reside indefinitely in cyberspace. And the harassment is often aimed at kids who are most vulnerable.
“Cyberbullying is especially common in middle school,” says Katie Andersen, community liaison for Linden Oaks at Edward. “Parents need to know the signs that this might be happening to their child. It’s important to start working with the school to address cyberbullying as early as possible. Research shows that cyberbullying victims are almost twice as likely to have attempted suicide than youths who have not experienced cyberbullying.”
Andersen is well-armed with empathy when she visits area schools to talk about bullying. She was on the receiving end of bullies’ taunts when she was in middle school, and credits involvement in sports and the support of her parents and two wise coaches with getting her through a tough period. She offers parents the following tips for dealing with cyberbullying:
1. Watch for the following behaviors that might suggest a kid is cyberbullied: Avoiding use of the cell phone or computer, acting jumpy when a text or email arrives, refusing to go to school or withdrawing from extracurricular activities.
2. Let your child know it’s safe to talk with you about any situation or electronic communication that makes them feel bullied.
3. If cyberbullying occurs, set up a meeting with a counselor or teacher at your child’s school to develop an action plan. This may include reporting the incidents to online service providers.
4. Communicate to your child any house rules they must follow to help keep them safe. This might include having you monitor their communications and giving you access to their passwords.
5. Explore resources available in your community for bullied kids and their families. Also, check out websites (e.g., www.stopbullying.gov, www.antibullying.net) and books about cyberbullying.
6. Most importantly, help your child develop resilience. Coach them in finding something they’re really good at and in setting realistic goals. This will help them feel more empowered. And if things don’t go as planned, teach them not to worry about controlling the uncontrollable. If they don’t make the team or get into the school they want, another option may present itself that’s actually a better fit.
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services