Today, most teen bullying happens digitally, on texting apps and social media platforms. If you have a teen who’s the new kid in school, he or she might know this truth all too well. It’s easy for teens to feel alienated after they start school in a whole new place, and other kids can use those nerves as fuel for teasing, harassing, or otherwise bullying your child online.
What is cyberbullying, exactly? For the non-tech-savvy parent, it may be hard to comprehend how abuse online could leave lasting damage on a teen’s psyche. However, hurtful messages, comments, and photographs posted online not only hurt when they’re posted — they can harm your child every time he or she, or someone else, views them. And since most teens have regular access to the internet via smartphones and home computers, abuse that happens online follows them everywhere.
In cyberbullying, social dynamics that are considered typical to middle schools and high schools become amplified. Entire cliques of friends may join up to make a Facebook page mocking a vulnerable teen, and risque photos sent to a crush can become public online. Outside the purview of parents and teachers and with the protection of anonymity, teens are emboldened of behave in ways they wouldn’t in the real world.
If your teen has just started school in a new city, keep an eye out for signs of cyberbullying. Your child will be eager to fit in at this vulnerable time, making him or her less likely to turn to parents when there’s a problem with classmates. Here’s what to look for:
If your teen is being cyberbullied at his or her new school, he or she will need your support getting through it. The first thing to do is help your teen block bullies on various online accounts or delete certain accounts entirely. Depending on the severity of the behavior, you may want to take screenshots as evidence first. If the website or app has a policy that bans harassment, reporting bullying could get the user banned. If the bullying involved sexual behavior, such as sharing explicit photographs, it might be appropriate to report them to the police.
Once the immediate threat has been quelled, it’s time to focus on supporting your teen. You want your teen to feel welcome and safe in his or her new school, but that can’t happen as long as your teen is being intimidated and abused online.
First, emphasize to your child that he or she is not to blame for the bullying. Bullies choose the most vulnerable people to be their targets, and as the new kid at school, your teen was an easy choice. That doesn’t mean your teen can’t make friends and find his or her place in a new community.
Next, alert teachers and administrators to their students’ online activities. While sometimes bullying is limited to the virtual realm, other times cyberbullying is paired with in-person abuse. Ask that trusted school staff monitor for signs that your teen is experiencing bullying at school.
Finally, make sure your home is a safe space for your teen to retreat. The most difficult part of cyberbullying is that you can’t escape it, even at home. Make sure there are plenty of fun things to do at home, so your teen isn’t spending all his or her time online. Connect over shared meals and fun family activities that provide a positive outlet for your child. Turn your child’s room into a relaxing sanctuary with all his or her favorite decorations and books, but keep technology out of the bedroom as much as is reasonable. Encourage your teen to stay in touch with his or her old friends — a support system is crucial when it comes to coping with the emotional challenges of bullying.
Switching schools should be a fun time for your teen — a chance to try on a new identity, make new friends, and expand his or her horizons. The last thing you want is for cyberbullying to tarnish that experience. Keep the conversation open, so you know how your child is adjusting to his or her new home.
Image via Pixaba
Guest Blog Post by Laura Pearson. Laura is the co-creator of Edutude.net. She believes that every student has great potential, and wants to help bright young minds that don’t feel engaged in the traditional classroom setting.
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Reading | Writing | Advocating for Education
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