How To Talk To Your Kids About Online Bullying

October was National Bullying Prevention Month, and in November Bullying Awareness.  We know that it is a topic that surrounds our kids and we thought it would be important to bring awareness and share tips on how to have the conversation with the children that are in your life.

Bullying is real in our society. From the playground to social media, it can be in more than a few places. And while some teens and kids may not be experiencing online bullying directly themselves, they can certainly be affected by it as bystanders or even friends of victims. If your kids are being bullied online, it’s important to have an open and honest conversation about what can happen when people use technology in this way. 

If they are being bullied online, it is important for them to know that there are places they can go for help.  Kids need to feel comfortable with their parents and trusted adults so that if this does happen, they will be able to tell someone about it.

A good place to start the conversation?

Start by being up front with your child. Discussing cyberbullying in an open manner allows you to talk about real world consequences and gives your child permission to tell you when they are being targeted online.

We understand that talking about bullying with your kids and teens can be difficult. The below list is a great place to start a conversation if you’re not sure where to start.  

  • Be Up Front
  • Tell them you want to talk about something important, then let them know that you want to make sure they’re safe online.
  • Listen and Hear Not Respond
  • Encourage your child or teen to tell their story by asking open-ended questions like “How did it make you feel?” or “What happened next?” You might also try saying nothing at all while they talk; this will give them an opportunity to really share what happened without feeling pressured by your response.
  • Pay Attention To What They Have To Say
  • Your child’s experience is unique, but there are some commonalities between different types of bullying: for example, having friends who turn on them because another person said something mean about their friend group as a whole (crowding). Or if someone posts a photo of one person making fun of the other person in order for attention from others (ganging up). If possible, try mirroring back what was just said by asking more questions like “Is this true? What else do we need to know? How does this make sense given what we already know? How would things change if we could go back in time and redo things differently today than yesterday?

The first step may be the most difficult—but it’s also the most important.

You want to start your conversation somewhere and work from there, so you’ll need to consider what you’re comfortable with.

For example, if your child is about 5 years old, you might want to begin by asking them what they think when they see someone being picked on in their preschool class. If your child is 10 years old, you might want to ask them how they feel when people make fun of other people online (and why). If your child is 15 years old and has been bullied repeatedly on social media platforms like Instagram or Twitter for several years now (yes, this does happen), then perhaps this would be a better starting point for your discussion: “So have I told you yet about my recent experience with cyberbullying?”

We hope this post has given you some ideas on how to start the conversation with your kids and teens about online bullying. It can be scary, especially if you’re not sure where to begin or if they already know what bullying is all about. The best thing we can tell you is that it’s important to start somewhere—and then work from there. You shouldn’t feel like there’s any pressure on having all the answers; in fact, we think that letting them know that YOU don’t know everything will actually put them at ease (because who doesn’t want their parent’s approval?).

For further reading, please take a look at the following resources

Also don’t forget to take a look at our coloring book:  “Camp Roar” is a conversational coloring book that introduces the concept of bullying and how to prevent it. Follow Jojo as she struggles to fit in with the other monsters at camp.

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