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Cyberbullying Prevention Tips for Kids
Tragic stories about cyberbullying seem to be a daily news staple in today's world. But while cyberbullying can devastate kids and families, news stories often focus on the worst cases. What's missing is a full picture of the cyberbullying environment.
Unlike a playground brawl in which a bully targets one victim, cyberbullying is often a group undertaking, with an entire network of kids participating. Kids play different roles -- bullies, victims, bystanders, and "upstanders" (the kids who stick up for the victims) -- at different times.
This means that broad-stroke solutions to cyberbullying -- like telling your kids to get off Facebook or making them give up their cell phones -- won't work. Online communication tools are part of the fabric of kids' lives. It also means that families might need to accept that even if their kid is being victimized, he or she may not always have acted saintly online.
Our tips can help prevent, protect, and deal with cyberbullying, regardless of the role your child has played. (Find more cyberbullying tips for all ages.)
Here's what you can do:
Teach your kids empathy. Nothing drives home a point faster than walking a mile in someone else's shoes. If your kids truly understand what someone else is going through, they're less likely to bully someone -- or passively witness others being bullied.
Help kids understand the line between funny and cruel. Kids' online communication is often purposely ambiguous or accidentally cruel -- both of which can lead to misunderstandings. If drama starts brewing, ask your kid to call or speak face to face with their friend to clear it up.
Make sure they talk to someone (even if it's not you). As kids enter the middle school years, their circle of friends and trusted adults widens. Kids need a responsible adult to confide in -- their school counselor, their music teacher, even the parent of a friend.Talk to your kid about who they can go to if trouble is brewing.
Help your kid be an upstander -- not a bystander. Kids are hesitant to get involved, in case the bully turns their sights on them. But there are ways to allow your kid to work behind the scenes to reach out to the victim, get an adult involved, and prevent more cruel behavior.
Show your kid how to stop it. Tell kids not to respond or retaliate. Not feeding the bully can stop the cycle. And -- if anything does happen -- save the evidence.