Bullying/Cyber-Bullying Guide for Parents/Guardians
Tips for Parents: What to Do If Your Child Is Being Bullied
If your child is being bullied at school, this can be a very painful experience for your child and your family. Here are some things you can do to support your child if he or she is being bullied:
- Never tell your child to ignore the bullying.
- Don't blame your child for the bullying. Don't assume your child did something to provoke the bullying.
- Allow your child to talk about his or her bullying experiences. Write down what is shared.
- Empathize with your child. Tell him or her that bullying is wrong, that it is not his or her fault, and that you are glad he or she had the courage to tell you about it.
- If you disagree with how your child handled the bullying situation, don't criticize him or her. It is often very difficult for children to know how best to respond.
- Do not encourage physical retaliation.
- Check your emotions. A parent's protective instincts stir strong emotions. Although it is difficult, step back and consider the next steps carefully.
- Contact a teacher, school counselor, or principal at your school immediately and share your concerns about the bullying that your child has experienced.
- Work closely with school personnel to help solve the problem.
- Encourage your child to develop interests and hobbies that will help build resiliency in difficult situations like bullying.
- Encourage your child to make contact with friendly students in his or her class, or help your child meet new friends outside of school.
- Teach your child safety strategies, such as how to seek help from an adult.
- Make sure your child has a safe and loving home environment.
- If you or your child need additional help, seek help from a school counselor and/or mental health professional.
Tips for Parents: What to Do If Your Child Bullies Others
If your child bullies other children at school, it will need to be stopped. Here are some things you can do at home to address the issue with your child:
- Make it clear to your child that you take bullying seriously and that it is not okay.
- Make rules within your family for your child's behavior. Praise your child for following the rules and use nonphysical and logical consequences when rules are broken. A logical consequence for bullying could be losing rights to use the phone to call friends, using email to talk with friends, or other activities your child enjoys.
- Spend lots of time with your child and keep close track of his or her activities. Find out who your child's friends are and how and where they spend their free time.
- Build on your child's talents by encouraging him or her to get involved in positive activities (such as clubs, music lessons, or nonviolent sports).
- Share your concerns with your child's teacher, counselor, and/or principal. Work together to send a clear message to your child that his or her bullying must stop.
- If you and your child need more help, talk with a school counselor and/or mental health professional.
Tips for Parents: What to Do If Your Child Witnesses Bullying
Many children are observers or bystanders in cases of bullying at school. It is important that even students who are bystanders in a bullying situation take action to get help, so the bullying stops. If your child talks to you about the bullying that he or she witnesses at school, you are encouraged to do the following:
- Teach your child how to get help without getting hurt.
- Encourage your child to verbally intervene if it is safe to do so, by saying such things as: Cool it! This isn't going to solve anything.
- Tell your child not to cheer on or even quietly watch bullying. This only encourages a child who bullieswho wants to be the center of attention.
- Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult about the bullying. Talking to an adult is not tattlingit is an act of courage and safety. Suggest going to an adult with a friend, if that will make it easier.
- Help your child support others who tend to be bullied.
- Teach your child to include these children in activities.
- Praise and reward quiet acts of couragewhere your child tried to do the right thing to stop bullying, even if he or she was not successful.
- Work with your child to practice specific ways he or she can help stop bullying. For example, role-play with him or her what he or she could say or do to help someone who is being bullied.
What Can Parents Do to Prevent and Address Cyber-Bullying?
Adults seldom are present in the online environments frequented by children and youth. Therefore, it is extremely important that adults pay close attention to cyber-bullying and the activities of children and youth when using these new technologies.
Cyber-bullying occurs when children and youth use cyber-technologies such as text messaging, Internet sites, and cell phones to bully others. Indirect forms of bullying like this can include spreading of false rumors, gossip, and verbal taunts or attacks. Like bullying that happens in person, cyber-bullying can have serious, and sometimes legal consequences for the ones doing the bullying.
Here are some ideas of ways to protect your child from cyber-bullying or address the issue if you find your child is cyber-bullying others.
Suggestions for Parents: Tips to Help Prevent Cyber-Bullying
Keep your home computer(s) in easily viewable places, such as a family room or kitchen.
Talk regularly with your child about online activities he or she is involved in.
a. Talk specifically about cyber-bullying and encourage your child to tell you immediately if he or she is the victim of cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, or other illegal or troublesome online behaviors.
b. Encourage your child to tell you if he or she is aware of others who may be the victims of such behavior.
c. Explain that cyber-bullying is harmful and unacceptable behavior. Outline your expectations for responsible online behavior and make it clear that there will be consequences for inappropriate behavior.
Although adults must respect the privacy of children and youth, concerns for your child's safety may sometimes override these privacy concerns. Tell your child that you
may review his or her online communications if you think there is reason for concern.
Consider installing parental control filtering software and/or tracking programs, but don't rely solely on these tools.
Tips For Dealing With Cyber-Bullying That Your Child Has Experienced:
Because cyber-bullying can range from rude comments to lies, impersonations, and threats, your responses may depend on the nature and severity of the cyber-bullying. Here are some actions that you may want to take after the fact.
Strongly encourage your child not to respond to the cyber-bullying.
Do not erase the messages or pictures. Save these as evidence.
Try to identify the individual doing the cyber-bullying. Even if the cyber-bully is anonymous (for example, is using a fake name or someone else's identity), there may be a way to track him or her through your Internet service provider. If the cyber-bullying is criminal (or if you suspect that it may be), contact the police and ask them to do the tracking.
Sending inappropriate language may violate the terms and conditions of email services, Internet service providers, Web sites, and cell phone companies. Consider contacting these providers and filing a complaint.
If the cyber-bullying is coming through email or a cell phone, it may be possible to block future contact from the individual who cyber-bullied. Of course, he or she may assume a different identity and continue the bullying.
Contact your school if the cyber-bullying is occurring through your school district's Internet system or during the school day. Even if the cyber-bullying is occurring off campus, make your school administrators aware of the problem. They may be able to help you by being watchful for face-to-face bullying occurring in school.
Consider contacting the cyber-bully's parents. These parents may be very concerned to learn that their child has been cyber-bullying others, and they may effectively put a stop to the bullying. On the other hand, these parents may react very badly to your contacting them. So, proceed cautiously. If you decide to contact a cyberbully's parents, communicate with them in writingnot face-to-face. Present proof of the cyber-bullying (for example, copies of an email message) and ask them to make sure the cyber-bullying stops.
Contact the police if cyber-bullying involves acts such as threats of violence; extortion; obscene or harassing phone calls or text messages; harassment, stalking, or hate crimes; or child pornography. If you are uncertain if cyber-bullying violates criminal laws, contact your local police, who will advise you.
This list has been adapted from a publication originally created for Take a Stand. Lend a Hand. Stop Bullying Now! a campaign of the Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. www.StopBullyingNow.hrsa.gov. Used with permission. The names Olweus and Olweus Bullying Prevention Program are protected as trademarks, and may not be used in any way that involves self-promotion or the sale of products without the written permission of Hazelden as the publisher.
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