As a parent, it can be a shock to find out that your child has bullied someone online. Many parents find it difficult to know where to start with addressing this type of behaviour with their child. To help, we’ve put together some tips that may help you and your child:
Keep calm and don’t lash out:
Although it may be tempting to get angry or lash out at your child, it’s better to focus instead on uncovering the underlying reasons why they are engaging in this behaviour and the motivation behind their actions. Look for the root of the problem, so that you can come up with effective resolutions. Let your child know that you do not support bullying, but you do support them.
Don’t try to deny the situation or find someone else to blame:
If you have solid proof that your child has done this, you can role model taking responsibility for actions and making it right. Even if you feel that peer influence or pressure had a part to play in it, focus on why your child made the choice to behave in this way.
Discuss the seriousness of their behaviour and how it can affect them and others:
Many online bullies write things that they would not say in person, so you may be surprised to see a level of nastiness that you didn’t think your child was capable of. As a starting place ask your child how they would feel if someone said or did the same thing to them or someone they love. It might also be worth speaking to your child about the fact that online bullying can be an offence under the Harmful Digital Communications Act. The Act includes 10 communications principles about ways people should act and communicate online – this could be a good place to start talking about appropriate behaviour. It’s a good idea to talk about the concept of a digital footprint as part of this discussion – many kids don’t realise that their online actions can come back to haunt them or the people they are bullying. For example, if they are going to apply for a job or if they are trying to join a club many employees will perform a google search to see a person’s online activity.
Help them to remove the content:
If your child has posted something publicly or on a social media profile you should help them to remove the content. If they have posted something harmful on multiple platforms, make sure they go and remove it from each one.
Get them to say sorry:
In a lot of cases it is appropriate for your child to apologise to the person or people they were bullying. Some victims may not be willing to accept that apology face to face, so a written apology may be needed. Reaching out yourself to the victim or their parents could also help with their healing process. If your child’s school or law enforcement is involved, encourage your child to co-operate with their processes and model this by co-operating with them yourself.
Keep a close eye on what they’re doing online:
Depending on the severity and longevity of the behaviour, you may consider monitoring their online behaviour more carefully. That could entail only using their devices in common areas of the home, restricting data on cell-phones/home wifi or implementing monitoring software, until you are sure that the behaviour has stopped. Warning signs that your child is bullying again could involve them hiding their device when you or other family members are around them, appearing nervous or on edge when a text or message comes through, or spending unusually large amounts of time online. Awareness will always be your greatest asset – trust your instincts.
Seek outside help if needed.
Depending on the motivations behind the bullying, your child may need counselling or anger management skills. You can find a wide variety of services available in your area through this website: https://www.familyservices.govt.nz/directory/ or you can contact Youthline or Kidsline.
Need help or advice? Contact us.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call us toll free on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723)
- Online report form at netsafe.org.nz/report
Our helpline is open from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 5pm on weekends.