Responding to Cyberbullying

September 17, 2015

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 this second installment, I want to walk you through how you can help your child handle a cyberbullying situation if and when it does happen. This is a difficult and scary time for adults and kids alike, but there are some practical steps you can take to help diffuse, and keep record of, the abuse. Following these steps when your child is the target of a cyberbully will help protect your child’s well-being and ensure that the cyberbully can be held to account.

Live up to your own standards

The first thing to impart to your child is to fight the instinct she may have to respond back to the cyberbully with taunts of her own. This is often just what the cyberbully wants, and will encourage, rather than deter, their behavior. Remind your child that the cyberbully is being mean and immature, whereas you raised your child to be responsible and kind. Living up to her values when it is most difficult is what builds character – so support her and let her know you are proud of her for not stooping to the cyberbully’s level.

Save and report the evidence

Teach your child to immediately take a screenshot of the hurtful content, and show it to you or another trusted adult right away. Capturing this evidence is important because it will give you the option to take further steps later on. You may decide to share evidence with the school through a reporting app like STOPit, for example. In some serious instances, you will need the evidence to show to law enforcement, such as if there has been a threat of harm, or if the content is of an illegal sexual nature. You may also want to report the abuse to the internet service provider (ISP) if the bullying took place on a specific social media account or website. Virtually all social media companies and blogging services have policies in place to block those who use their services inappropriately. You also may be able to get specific offensive content removed. All of these remedial actions will require evidence – so again, be sure to screenshot and securely file the abusive content right away.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Cyberbullying is often prolonged over a period of time. You and your child may find yourself in a situation where you have documented evidence, shared it with a third party such as the school or an ISP, but are still encountering abuse from the cyberbully. Don’t be discouraged! Giving up now will send the cyberbully the message that they can get away with their behavior. Rather, you must help your child to be relentless, and keep reporting each and every incident until it stops. If abuse worsens or you are unsatisfied with the response you are getting, try reaching out to a different contact or going over the head of the person with whom you may have been corresponding. Or if the abuse is taking place on a particular social media channel, use that same social media platform to seek a remedy directly from an employee of the company – this is virtually guaranteed to get a higher up’s attention. Remember how the saying goes: try, try again!

Cut off contact

If possible, be sure that your child blocks the cyberbully from all of their social media accounts. If necessary, block their email address and cell phone number as well. You can also have your child delete the problematic social media accounts. Cutting off contact may not get you the justice your child deserves, but it will protect him from the harmful abuse and preserve his well-being.

By utilizing these tips, you can help your child respond appropriately to a situation of cyberbullying, helping to limit emotional distress on your child, and possibly influencing the outcome of the situation, which could include appropriate consequences for the cyberbully. Check back soon for the final article in this series on helping your kids to face down cyberbullying: Part 3: Rising Above Cyberbullying.

Image courtesy of Flickr

Written by

Tom Rich

Tom is STOPit’s cyber safety expert and key spokesperson for student and parent rallies, where he encourages the creation of positive school communities. His presentations cover cyberbullying and how technology fuels this epidemic, including detailed looks into the most popular social media sites of the moment and incorporating real-life examples. Tom’s engaging presentation drives home how these forms of communication are affecting our youth everyday and making it easier to be mean to each other. He provides relevant, effective cyber-safe strategies to help children use social media in positive ways and promote safe, kind school communities. Always Connected grew out of Tom’s previous venture, Generation Text.

Tom is also a Sergeant with the Summit Police Department in New Jersey, where he has worked as a Patrol Officer, Detective, Juvenile Detective, Juvenile Sergeant, and Patrol Sergeant. Tom is the Owner and Presenter for, and has been the keynote speaker at over 700 events nationally, reaching over 500,000 students. Tom has a BA in Criminal Justice from Monmouth University.