Beat a cyberbully, here’s how parents can help
While remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic lowered reported instances of bullying, parents fear that, for some students, being back at school means back to being bullied.
When Jadian’s oldest daughter told her about being bullied for the first time, she was stunned. “It was so stressful for her,” she said. “She didn’t know what to do.”
Jadian and her husband, Jesse, from northern Maine, have learned that taking a proactive approach is key. “You don’t want it to progress,” she said. “You want to stop it before it becomes a huge problem.”
Educating themselves and their two daughters, ages 5 and 8, about how to handle any type of bullying is a family priority. “We can’t always be there to swoop in and protect them,” said Jesse.
Efforts to increase bullying awareness, such as National Bullying Prevention Month in October, have expanded to include the threat of cyberbullying. Technology’s ever-greater presence in children’s lives allows cyberbullies to taunt, harass and threaten relentlessly with just a click. Cyberbullies can at once anonymously reach their victims in their own homes via cellphone or computer. As a result, victims report feeling hopeless, isolated and even suicidal.
What can parents do to protect their kids? Taking an interest in their children’s online world can make a difference, says the National Parent Teacher Association.
This interest does not necessarily require parents to become tech experts. Instead, the federal stopbullying.gov site advises parents to watch for subtle clues that something is wrong, such as their child becoming withdrawn, hiding their screen when others are nearby or reacting emotionally to what’s happening on their device.
Talking with kids openly – and often – helps too. “The more you talk to your children about bullying, the more comfortable they will be telling you if they see or experience it,” UNICEF says in its online tips for parents.
“We encourage the girls to come to us,” said Jesse. He and his wife have carved out time in their schedule to ensure that those opportunities for open communication are available. They have instituted a weekly family night to talk and enjoy fun activities together.
Small daily conversations are also important, Jesse said. “On the way home from school, it gives us a few minutes of uninterrupted time to talk about what happened during the day,” he said. “We ask, ‘Did anything good happen today? Did anything bad happen today?’”
All of this has paid off. “I was happy that our daughter came to us and told us about the bullying, and we were able to help her,” said Jadian.
A valuable resource for the family has been jw.org. “It has practical advice and tools to help open up communication with your kids,” said Jesse. After watching the short animated video “Beat a Bully Without Using Your Fists” with their daughter, she felt better prepared to handle the situation. “She had a plan,” said Jesse. Applying the advice didn’t just help their daughter. “We’ve seen both our confidence and our daughter’s confidence grow,” said Jesse.
Other tips and free resources are available at jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses.