What if your child is the cyberbully?

By now I’m sure you’ve all heard of the term, “cyberbullying.”  More often than not, the focus in on the victim. But what happens when your child is the one doing the bullying?
The same number of teens report being a cyberbully as being a victim of cyberbullying (over 50%), so the odds are that at some point, your child has engaged in some form of mean behaviour online.

It’s important to understand that the way teenagers communicate online has drastically evolved, and is a very different platform to the ways of communicating you experienced growing up.  Texting, videoing, snap-chatting, emojis… all these different ways of communicating lend themselves to abuse, but also misinterpretation.

While many teenagers will deliberately seek out to hurt another (through sending them direct text messages, or uploading crudely altered  photographs), the ambiguous nature of the digital world lends itself to misinterpretation. Often, teenagers find that they unintentionally become a cyberbully, as they don’t realise the implications of what they are doing online. For example, “liking” or “sharing” an embarrassing photograph or video of a classmate may seem like harmless fun, however, it counts as cyberbullying! As they are actively showing their support and increasing the visibility of mean content.

As teens pioneer their way through the new waters of online communication, my advice to parents is to guide them as best you can. Be aware of the different social media sites and apps your child is using – ask them to show you some of their favourites! But more importantly, discuss with them the limitations that online communication presents, and how easily misinterpreted comments and actions can be. Through these discussions, raise their awareness of what could constitute cyberbullying – odds are, they’ve never even thought about it! The more we can educate children about how to better use these tools, and be kind to one another, the better chance we have at eliminating bullying altogether.

About the author
Kim is a Cybersafety Educator from Perth, Western Australia.

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