As winter break comes to a close, it’s important to keep in mind that while families may have been on vacation, cyberbullying never ceases. Teens access the Internet from a number of devices – from their cell phones to classroom computers to their laptops. With several access points, and 95% of all teens ages 12-17 using the Internet, there is chance that kids are using the web in a way that’s harmful to others.
Prepare kids to go back to school with an understanding of safe Internet activity and the knowledge of how to respond to cyberbullying with the following tips:
Do not respond.
Teach teens not to respond to messages, comments, or texts with rude or hurtful content. Instead, encourage teens to tell a trusted adult if they receive these types of communications – and reassure them that doing so will not result in the loss of their online privileges.
Try to understand the other side.
In some cases, online communications are taken out of context to mean something other than what was intended. Teach teens empathy and to see things from the other individual’s point of view. If it is the first time a rude comment was made, it’s possible that the message was not meant to be hurtful at all.
Keep a record.
If rude or hurtful messages continue, help teens keep a record of the cyberbullying incidents. Screenshot the comments or messages and record the time and date of each occurrence. This type of information will be essential to have on-hand if the cyberbullying escalates and law enforcement becomes involved.
Block the cyberbully.
Show teens how to block or delete the cyberbully’s messages and/or account. Depending on the website or phone provider, the instructions to block or delete messages/users can vary. For help, contact the website administrator, cell phone provider, or Internet service provider (ISP) where the cyberbullying occurred.
Report the incident.
Let teens know they can report cyberbullying incidents to the website moderator, ISP or cell phone provider. These individuals may have the power to affect what actions the cyberbully can and cannot execute online.
Change it up.
If the cyberbully does not recede after the above actions, help teens change their phone number or email address to prevent further aggressive messages. Remind them to only provide this information to trustworthy individuals.
Helping teens understand how to appropriately respond to inappropriate online activity prevents cyberbullying long-term and empowers them in the short-term.