What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the use of digital-communication tools (such as the Internet and cell phones) to make another person feel angry, sad, or scared, usually again and again. (Learn about the different roles kids play in a cyberbullying situation.)
Examples of cyberbullying include sending hurtful texts or instant messages, posting embarrassing photos or video on social media, and spreading mean rumors online or with cell phones.
If you're trying to figure out whether your kid is being cyberbullied, think about whether the offender is being hurtful intentionally and repeatedly. If the answer is no, the offender might simply need to learn better online behavior. If the answer is yes, take it seriously.
How do I report cyberbullying?
Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have gotten serious about helping users who have been targeted by bullies. If your kid is bullied on a website or in an app, go to the company's site and look for a section offering support, such as "Community Guidelines," "Safety Center," "Parent Info," "Safety Tips," or something similar. It may make recommendations such as blocking the bully or changing the setting for who can contact you.
If your kid is bullied or harassed over text message, call your mobile phone provider to report the number. You may be able to block it or change your phone number. Many carriers offer additional anti-bullying features for a fee.
If the abuse continues, you may need to enlist the help of your community: your kid's school, his or her coaches, or other parents. If the communication contains threats, you'll need to report it to law enforcement.
When should parents intervene in a cyberbullying situation?
Many kids don't tell their parents that they're being cyberbullied. Kids might feel embarrassed or ashamed to let you know they've been targeted. They also might be afraid your involvement will make things worse. But, if you find out your kid has been cyberbullied, it probably means the issue is major enough for you to get involved.
Try this: Collect more facts by talking the situation through with your kid. Work out a plan of action together. Make sure you and your kid agree on what the outcome should be.? Ramp up your efforts as the situation demands.
Another reason not to rush to a solution: Research indicates that peers sticking up for each other is a very effective defense against bullies. Bullies work by trying to isolate their victims. When kids rally around the target, it thwarts the bully. Encourage your kid to reach out to friends for support.
Of course, if there are any real threats to your child's safety, you should contact the authorities immediately.