Good Digital Parenting
Blog | Oct. 15, 2015

Help Your Child Rise Above Cyberbullying

Cyber Safety Expert, STOPit

In the first part of this three part series, we looked at how to help your kids prepare for an encounter with a  cyberbully – either as a target or as we call them at STOPit, an “Upstander”. In the second installment, we walked through how you can help your child respond to a situation of cyberbullying.  

In this third and final installment of our series on cyberbullying, we are going to look at tips for how you can help your children rise above cyberbullying. Even when you have helped your child respond to a cyberbully in a responsible way, the experience can be incredibly upsetting or even scary, for young children and teenagers alike. Helping your child develop some of the life skills outlined here will help your child to move on from this upsetting experience stronger, more confident, and more resilient.

I talk a lot in my presentations and writing about creating teachable moments with your children. A teachable moment is an opportunity for you to have an conversation with your child about an important topic. They are so valuable because they have the power to strengthen your communication with your child, which in turn can strengthen your relationship. Teachable moments also give you a chance to share some of your hard-earned wisdom with your kid, without having to sit them down for a lecture (which they will probably tune out anyway). 

In many ways, this third step is the most fun step in this series, because it is such an amazing opportunity for you to create some of those teachable moments with your child. In learning to rise above cyberbullying, you can hit on some of life’s most important lessons. The reality is, life is full of challenges and set-backs, and cyberbullying is just one of them. Helping your child through this journey of growth in many ways will help prepare them grow into the compassionate and mature individual that you are raising them to be.

DON’T: Blame yourself 

The first and most important thing to remind your child is that being bullied isn’t their fault. No matter what a cyberbully says or does, your son or daughter should not feel ashamed of who they are or what they feel. The bully is the person with the problem, not your child! 

DON’T: Dwell on it

Even though it may feel like a natural reaction, dwelling on an incident of cyberbullying or reading a hurtful message over and over will only make it worse. Instead, teach your children to deal with cyberbullying right away and head on: as soon as it happens, they should report the incident to trusted adults, their school, or an ISP (see Part 2 of this series for a reminder on best practices for responding to cyberbullying). Once reported, she should do her best to forget about it and shift her focus to positive things.

DO: Learn to deal with the stress

Not only is learning to deal with stress going to help your child bounce back from being targeted by a cyberbully, it is one of the most enduring tools you can endow your child with can helps lead to a longer and more fulfilling life as they enter high school, college, and the workforce. Armed with the knowledge of effective ways to relieve stress, your child will be more resilient to the overwhelming feelings caused by cyberbullying, and will be better able to handle it on their own in future scenarios. Some great and proven ways to relieve stress include sports, exercise, yoga, meditation, positive self-talk, and breathing exercises. Lots of other less traditional stress relief activities can do the trick too, such as painting, martial arts, a walk in nature, baking, or a bubble bath.  Help your child to identify what works best for them! 

DO: Spend time in the real world

These days, it’s easy for our kids to get completely consumed with their virtual lives. When a cyberbully threatens their enjoyment and fulfillment on social media, it can feel like a big chunk of the joy in their life has been compromised. This is why part of moving on from an upsetting incident of cyberbullying should involve focusing on all of those other activities in the “real world” that make your son or daughter happy. Playing sports, a hobby, creative projects, and spending time (in person) with friends and family – these are all great way that your child can focus on all of the other meaningful and joyful elements of his or her life! The more time your daughter spends doing her favorite activities or spending time with loved ones, the less significance cyberbullying will have in her life. 

DO: Take some perspective

Perspective is everything. As adults, we know from experience that life is long, and hard times come and go – but this is hard for kids to grasp. Help them along by teaching them to focus on life as a big picture, and understand that this will soon all be a distant memory. Here are two strategies you can try. First, talk about some of the difficulties you have overcome in your own life. Show your child how you can laugh about them now, even though at the time it may have felt that your world was upside down. Secondly, talk to your child about her hopes and dreams. Isn’t it true that this experience is in no way going to interfere with her pursuing them? By focusing on the really big and important aspects of life, you can help to show her that although this chapter is painful, it will feel insignificant in the long run. 

DO: Look for the silver lining

They say every cloud has a silver lining. The final tool I want to share to rise above cyberbullying is to help your child look for lessons learned, or find ways to interpret the cyberbullying as a positive experience. For examples, you and your child can do some research together on other targets who turned their bullying experiences into a positive. Here are a few examples: 

  • After being targeted by cyberbullies. Caitlin Prater-Haacke of Alberta responded by leaving post it notes with positive messages for her classmates all over her high school. 

  • Second grader Christian Bucks of Pennsylvania created a “Buddy Bench” where kids can sit when they are feeling down about a bully and could use a friend.

Perhaps these stories of targets of bullies finding ways to turn their experience into something positive can help inspire your child to do the same. Ask your son or daughter: did they learn any lessons as a result of their experience? How can they find their silver lining? 

This concludes the series on helping your kids face down cyberbullying. Remember, by preparing for, responding appropriately to, and learning to rise above, you can help your child to safely and responsibly navigate the uncontrollable and unpredictable reality of cyberbullying. 

  • Image Courtesy of Flickr