If an incident of cyberbullying or online abuse occurs, approach the situation carefully and calmly. Do not overreact as this may make your child back off and deter them from confiding in you again. Open communication between you and your child is essential when helping them with a cyberbullying problem.
Encourage your child to spend time away from the computer for a while. It is natural for your child to want to see what other people are writing about them online. Explain that you both need a clear mind to work out your next steps.
Watch some TV, share a coffee or soft drink – or just get out for some fresh air. This will give both of you time to calm down and gain a healthy perspective. ‘Assess’ the threat to your child as objectively as you possibly can.
Children and teenagers regularly argue and disagree with each other online, just like offline – these ‘incidents’ are not themselves an exclusive sign of cyberbullying, although they could potentially be a sign of a problem that needs addressing. Talk calmly with your child and find out exactly what you are dealing with – remembering to let them know that you will not take any action until you have both discussed the next steps.
If there is a problem of cyberbullying or harassment on the internet, reassure your child that you are on their side and will work with them to deal with it. Because of the wide-open nature of the internet, your child might feel that the whole world is viewing the abusive content and drawing conclusions about them based on that content – this is a great time to gain a healthy perspective by asking yourselves, “How many people are ACTUALLY reading this content?” And “How many people ACTUALLY believe what has been written?”
Encourage your child to find a way to resolve any issues themselves, albeit with your support – before you step in and take over. The last thing your child wants is more drama or conflict so work with them to find solutions and discuss ways to avoid the same situation happening again in the future.
Sometimes incidents of cyberbullying and online abuse constitute a criminal offense. Set up a folder on your desktop and store all evidence of online abuse. You might need to demonstrate ‘ongoing harassment’ for legal action at a later date.