MORRIS COUNTY — Cyberbullying is often a devastating form of child abuse, and as the new school year is fast approaching, Deirdre’s House (click here for website), which is the Center for Morris County’s child victims, is urging urges parents to talk to their children about the damaging effects of cyberbullying.
According to Maria Vinci Savettiere, Executive Director of Deirdre’s House, “parents need to have frank discussions with their children about the long-term, sometimes life-threatening consequences of cyberbullying on child victims.’’
The most effective way to stop cyberbullying is at its source by educating children as to the often negative, life changing effects cyberbullying may cause.
Here is what you can do to prevent your child from engaging in cyberbullying behavior:
- Regularly remind your children about the importance of treating others the way they would want to be treated. They should be encouraged to be as polite online as they are in person.
- Talk about how some things we might do or say to someone that seem funnyat the time are actually hurtful.
- Remind them not to write or forward hurtful messages.
- Regularly check in on the online behaviors of your children. Problematic behavior must be addressed with reasonable and appropriate discipline.
- Ask them not to send messages when they are angry. Make sure they ask themselves before clicking “send,” how they would feel if they received that message.
- Urge them to help kids who are victims of bullying online by not joining in and showing bullying messages to an adult.
Here is what you can do if your child is engaging in cyberbullying behavior:
- Explain the severity of their actions. Ask them if they would like their actions reported to law enforcement or school authorities.
- Explain to your child that this kind of behavior is unacceptable. Stop any show of aggression you see and talk about other ways your child can deal with the situation.
- Ask them to stop the bullying immediately. Make it clear to your child that you take bullying seriously and that you will not tolerate this behavior. Encourage them to apologize to the victim.
- Have them take a break from whatever medium they are using, For example, if they are making hurtful comments about others on Facebook, get them to take a break from Facebook for a few days. If they are sending nasty text messages, then they should lose their cell phone privileges for a while.
- Talk to them about the devastating psychological harm they could cause. We are all aware of the terrible cases of children taking their own lives because of bullying of all types. Don’t sugarcoat the effect that their cyber bullying could have on the child they are targeting. Ask them:how would you feel if someone did these things to you or to someone you love?
- Try to find out why:Ask your child – Did something happen to make you act this way? Is there something going on at home that is encouraging this type of behavior? It may be that your child is the target of bullies and turned to bullying in response. Maybe your child has gotten involved with the “wrong crowd’’ and has been coerced into bullying by others to stay popular with that crowd. If you discover the cause, try to help them deal with that
- Monitor their Internet and phone activity. Move the computer out of their bedroom.
- Increase your knowledge of technology. Parents may be unaware of the full range of technologies used by their children. Try to familiarize yourself with these technologies.
- Share your concernswith your child’s teacher, counselor, or principal. Work together to send clear messages to your child that his or her bullying must stop. If you or your child needs additional help, talk with a school counselor or mental health professional.
Most important, remember: Parents are the first line of defense in the war against cyberbullying!
For more information about Deirdre’s House and bullying, click here.
Deirdre’s House is the Center in Morris County for child victims of abuse and/or neglect . It is the only site in Morris County where a child victim can be interviewed and digitally recorded by law enforcement, medically examined and treated by a pediatric abuse specialist, prepared for trial, and clinically counseled in English or Spanish—-all under one roof. Since opening its doors in 1996, Deirdre’s House has provided services to over 24,000 of Morris County’s child victims.