About 25 percent of American children and teens experience cyberbullying, but there are ways parents can help their children, a criminology and bullying expert says.
Cyberbullying is intentional harassment, humiliation or any other form of abuse through use of computers, cellphones or other electronic devices.
When a child is bullied online, parents must make sure the youngster feels safe, said Sameer Hinduja, a professor at Florida Atlantic University's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in Boca Raton.
Talk with and listen to your child to learn exactly what happened. Don't panic, but also don't minimise the situation or make excuses for the cyberbullying, Hinduja said in a university news release.
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Collect as much evidence as possible. That might mean printing out or creating screenshots of conversations, messages, pictures and any other items that show your child is being cyberbullied. Keep a record of all incidents, as well as details such as severity of harm, third-party involvement or witnesses, and the backstory, Hinduja advised.
This information can be used when working with school officials. All schools in the United States have a bullying policy, and most cover cyberbullying. Seek the help of school officials if your child and the cyberbully go to the same school, he recommended.
"When we work with youth targets of cyberbullying, they often tell us that they don't want anyone to make a big deal of what happened, and they don't want the bully to get in trouble," Hinduja said.
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"Instead, they just want the problem to go away. As a parent, you can help make this happen," he said.
How? By contacting the social media company, website, gaming network, or service provider involved. "They will typically respond to your complaint in 24 to 48 hours," Hinduja said.
It's also important for parents to remind children that they can block and report other users who are troublemakers, and to teach children to be resilient when faced with minor conflicts.
"The reality is that everyone has to deal with people who are rude and malicious and spiteful in adulthood, and so adolescents should face and rise above some of these milder incidents with the support and guidance of loving parents," Hinduja added.
He said this can help children learn that self-worth isn't solely rooted in peer perceptions, but instead in who they are becoming as a person.
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