Updated: Dec 11, 2019
Being a parent is harder now than ever before given rise to technology and social media, which makes it more difficult to protect our kids.
"Behind every young child who believes in themself is a parent who believed first."-Matthew Jacobson
Research has shown that higher parental support was associated with less involvement across all forms and classifications of bullying.
Positive parental support of their kids decreases the likelihood they will be involved in bullying as either the victim, bully, or bully-victim. One way to prevent engaging in such behavior is by fostering a positive environment at home and helping their child build and develop skills that will promote better peer relations. There are many ways for parents to help their children during difficult times as well. Although it is sometimes impossible to monitor everything they do, parents should be aware of changes in behavior and respond appropriately when their child is being bullied. Here are a few ways parents can help their child during bully-related incidents:
(Before you do take these steps, speak to your child first about everything so they are on board with it. Read below for "what not to do.")
1. If your child is experiencing bullying at school, document each incident so there is a record to show consistent or repetitive behavior.
2. Next, advise school officials of students’ actions towards your child and document the complaint being made. If your child is physically assaulted in any manner, it may also be necessary to get law enforcement involved here as well. Obtain a copy of police records (if applicable) or document date and time complaints were made with a local agency.
2. Determine if your state has an anti-bullying law and determine the guidelines presented by the state on the definition of bullying and the behaviors associated with it. Also, understand the punishment for violating those laws.
3. Have knowledge of what the school policies are for bullying and the measures taken by officials if complaint is made. Establish if officials have taken proper steps to stop the behavior. If it persists, then document.
4. If the behavior continues despite all measures, the next step is to present all of your incidents to the city Board of Education.
If bullying occurs outside of school, it may be necessary to contact local law enforcement and report the incident depending on the severity of the issue. Regardless if law enforcement is involved or not, advising school officials of an incident that occurred off school grounds will allow officials to monitor any future behavior while on school ground.
Monitoring your child’s activities online can also help. Applications such Bark https://www.bark.us/ is a great way to monitor activity and receive alerts directly to your phone. This may be a much harder method for young teenaged kids as it is intrusive, but if it is absolutely necessary for their safety then it may be a step that has to be taken upon agreement from you and the child.
It is also important to know what social media platforms your child uses. It may seem like you are invading their privacy, but with the increase of Cyberbullying, it is a necessary precautionary measure you must take to protect your kids.
Parents should also inform their kids that content posted on their social media platforms may negatively affect them later in life in regards to college applications or employment. Informing them of this now will not only help in decreasing negative behavior such as participating in Cyberbullying, but also post-high school when their kid is entering college or the workforce.
Below are links to Facebook and Instagram bullying measures they’ve taken to fight against Cyberbullying:
Laws & Regulations:
Parents should have an understanding of State and local laws as well as school guidelines and regulations that are set to protect their children. Some states do not cover Cyberbullying so it is important to know what your local police department can or cannot do in an incident involving harassment or negative online behavior towards your child.
1. Research state law and determine if anti-bullying laws are active in the state.
2. Research your city or town Board of Education policies for bullying
3. Research the school’s anti-bullying policies and procedures
The effects of bullying can result in observable behavior and it is not only important to be aware of those changes when they occur, but the response to them should happen sooner rather than later.
Child does not want to go to school.
Skipping classes or school all together and becoming truant.
Constantly complaining of feeling sick at home (to avoid going to school) or in school, but there are no signs anything is wrong with them.
Loss of energy, appetite, and lethargic.
Child is scared to walk home or take the bus and begins asking for rides to and from school.
Child seems to be troubled by something, but is reluctant to say anything.
Their mood or behavior changes when they return home from school or after using a computer or cell phone.
Change in aggression and begin lashing out on you or their siblings.
Easily startled and jumpy.
Damages property and torn clothes.
Decline in academic performance.
Seems overly anxious.
Shows signs of depression such as lack of motivation and isolating themselves.
Child doesn't seem to have many friends or talk about having any.
Unusual cuts or burns that may indicate self-mutilation, which can be a serious problem and lead to further risky behaviors.
WHAT NOT TO DO:
Do not encourage your child to stand up or fight back against the bully: The repercussions of their actions can cause more harm than good and may get your child in trouble. Unless provoked to defend themselves against the bully, encouraging your child to fight may only make matters worse.
Do not tell your child to handle matters themselves: The reason they came to you in the first place is because they couldn't. Showing lack of care in this matter can make them lose faith in going to any adult if matters persist, which can lead to much greater risks.
Do not take matters into your own hands: Being victimized by a bully is enough to make a child feel powerless and have no control over it. Although as a parent you want to step right in and do everything you can to protect your child, sometimes doing too much may in fact make matters worse. Taking matters into your own hands makes it even harder for the child to have any sense of control and may make them more reluctant to approach you about the problem the next time it occurs. If any decisions are made, it should be with the child, not done behind their back.
Do not spy on your kids on social media: Don't create fake accounts to monitor their behavior. Build enough trust that you can do so with their permission (Given they are at least 13 years or older) so that they can maintain some sort of control over the situation.
Do not tell them you understand: Even if you were a victim of bullying yourself the famous saying "parents just don't understand" is an unfortunate cliche that often stands true. No matter how similar a situation may seem to an experience you went through, there are many other factors to consider given gap in age, changing of times, the influence of technology and social media, and the way children operate today. If you want to understand what they are going through, actively listen and try and step into their shoes because they may be very different from the ones you wore when you were their age. Be patient, be proactive where you can be, let them be in control of the situation, but be right behind them during the process.
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
If your child is experiencing online harassment or Cyberbullying, there is an increased chance that they are also being bullied in school as well as 80% of students experience both forms of bullying (Hinduja, 2018). Given the propensity for this behavior to happen on a more consistent basis, it increases the risk for your child to react in a manner not consistent with their normal behavior. Pay attention to these signs as they may prove pivotal if not properly addressed.
Changes in Behavior:
Be aware of changes in your child’s behavior as these may be signs they may be dealing with personal issues in or out of school relating to bullying. If the behavior is extreme and severe, it may be a situation for the child to seek professional help.
Know the signs of common behavior and moods of someone who may be experiencing suicidal ideation. The more you are aware of these signs the better prepared you will be to step in and help your child who desperately need it.
Click here for more information on suicide and suicide prevention