According to a study conducted by Pew Research Center in 2018, 59% of U.S. teens have been bullied or harassed online, and over 90% believe that it is a major problem for individuals their age. As a parent, you want to protect your children at any cost—especially when they are being bullied. Whether your first reaction is sadness, anger, frustration, or fear, it is important to remember you are not alone. If you want to become an advocate for your child and their physical and mental health, there are a few steps you can take to support them.
Micah Raskin is a philanthropist who is currently raising awareness for cyberbullying. He states that youth who have been bullied face an increased risk for suicide ideation and thoughts, attempts, and completed suicides. Micah Raskin has a few key tips on how to support your child if you suspect or have confirmed that they are being bullied online.
Micah Raskin explains that some things need to be considered when helping your children with cyberbullying. First and foremost is persistence. Digital devices offer the ability to immediately and continuously communicate 24 hours a day, so it can be difficult for children experiencing cyberbullying to find relief. Secondly, most of the information being posted online or through messages can be both permanent and public. It has the potential to make their perceived shortcomings a public spectacle—which can make it even more challenging. Lastly, because cyberbullying happens online, Micah Raskin explains that it can be very difficult to spot, notice, or understand its severity.
Here is what you can do to support your child if it happens to them
Ensure open communication
First things first: talk to your child. Depending on how you find out about your child’s bullying, you will want to sit down with them and be prepared to listen without judgment. If you can provide a safe, understanding, supportive environment where your child feels like they can speak about or work out their feelings, they will be more likely to open up to you in the future. Micah Raskin explains that it is crucial to share with them that it is not their fault and assure them that they have the right to feel safe at school. At first, your child may not be willing to open up. They might feel embarrassed, ashamed, fearful, angry, or sad, so just opening up the space to let them know they can talk to you is a great start. Micah Raskin suggests considering it an ongoing conversation even if they open up right away, remember that this is one of many check-ins that should occur until the issue is resolved.
Establish a plan of action
Once you have breached the subject with your child—listening to their needs and adjusting accordingly—you can now support and empower them. Building an action plan to stop the bullying will help your child build self-confidence and resilience. However, as Micah Raskin points out, there are a few things you should avoid. Do not tell your child to stand up to their bully. While it can be productive for your child to practice being assertive, this sends the wrong message that it is up to them to resolve the issue. You and your child should come up with a solution together. Next, it is also best not to avoid the situation entirely. Chances are they have already tried ignoring the behavior and likely feel alienated at school.
Lastly, do not take matters solely into your own hands. While you may feel inclined to fix this problem for your child, it is something you need to work through together. Micah Raskin explains that a plan that leaves your child feeling empowered is one that allows them to come up with solutions on their own—with a bit of guidance along the way!
As a parent, Micah Raskin suggests checking your state’s legislation on bullying. Every state has different laws and policies on how bullying should be handled. If you are unsure, visit stopbullying.org to find out the laws your particular state has in place. You should also check your child’s school policy on bullying to see what your next steps can be should you need to take further action.
No matter what plan you and your child have come up with, it will be useful to keep notes on instances of bullying as well as actions taken. Having a history of incidences and reports can be useful when addressing the pattern of behavior with law enforcement, school administrators, or other parents. If your child is experiencing cyberbullying, encourage them not to delete messages or comments. Micah Raskin also suggests creating a communication plan with supportive counterparts, including teachers and other parents to monitor the problem.