Cyberbullying is using information and communication technologies to deliberately and repeatedly behave in a manner intended to harass, threaten, humiliate or harm others.
Research suggests that between 20 - 30% of students will experience cyberbullying and between 10 - 20% of students will be a cyberbully at some point; some research suggests these percentages are even higher. This means that a lot of parents will discover their child is a cyberbully and need to help change their child’s behavior.
Bullying is not a normal part of growing up, and neither is cyberbullying. Whether it is one sibling bullying and cyberbullying another at home, or the bullying and cyberbullying are directed towards another child, the behavior is damaging to both the victim and the bully.
To discover if your child is being a cyberbully, sit down with your child and conduct a spot check of their online accounts and phone activity. Explain to your child that you aren’t trying to snoop in all their conversations; you are just making a periodic check to see if they have stepped up to the social responsibility they have to act appropriately when using the internet and their phones.
A quick review of their text history, photos they’ve taken, stored, or posted, as well as their social networking sites will probably answer your question quickly, though some cyberbullies go to elaborate lengths creating fake profiles and accounts to hide who they are when attacking, and use computers at libraries or friends’ homes where you would not see their actions.
Another way to understand what your child is doing online is to install one of the family safety (often called parental control) software tools that include content monitoring on their computer. These tools will alert you if your child, or another child they interact with, is being a cyberbully based on their exchanges. If you opt for this route, be transparent with your child about what you are doing.
If you discover your child is indeed being a cyberbully, you are likely to have a lot of feelings about it. You may feel devastated, angry, embarrassed, betrayed, guilty, or experience other emotions that you need to process; try not to bring your feelings and reactions into your conversation with your child.
Remember, you are not alone in this, many parents are making the same discovery about their child(ren), have had to acknowledge what has occurred, and look for ways to remedy the situation.