Laura Pearson joins me today to talk to you about the realities of cyberbullying along with some ways to guard against it. Laura is a mom whose son was the target of cyberbullying. You can find more from Laura here.
Moving to a new city or state is a stressful time for school-age children. They have to cope with a new home environment, make new friends, get to know new teachers, and learn their way around a new school. One thing that makes being the “new kid” even more difficult is that they can become an easy target for bullies—particularly cyberbullies. Statistics show that over half of adolescents have experienced being bullied online. 1 in 3 students have experienced threats online. With those stats in mind, we can’t sit back and ignore the realities for our kids. Here are seven ways to help guard against and counteract cyberbullying at a new school.
Get Your Child Involved in Extracurricular Activities Early
The new kid makes an easy target for bullies in part because he hasn’t had the opportunity to make many friends yet. You can help to combat this problem by getting your child involved in extracurricular activities soon after your move, even before he starts attending his new school, if possible.
Extra-curricular activities provide opportunities for kids to easily make new friends with shared interests, which can make them a less-appealing target for bullies. Plus, after-school activities can provide an outlet for stress and boost self-esteem.
Create a Stress-Free Home Environment
There’s no way around it: moving will be stressful for your child. Keeping the home environment as stress-free as possible can help your child adjust to the many changes happening in her life. Make sure there are plenty of healthy food choices available for packing school lunches, after-school snacks, and meals. A healthy diet supports both mental and physical well-being.
Make moving fun for your child by allowing her to pick out new decor for her bedroom, giving her her own personal space where she can escape and feel comfortable. Adding some plants throughout the home can help to purify the air and give it a more home-like feel, as well.
Encourage Your Child to Communicate with You
When your child starts her new school, ask her about her day, every day. Having open lines of communication may make some children more likely to share both the ups and downs as they get acclimated to a new school, which in turn makes it easier for parents to pinpoint potential issues.
Watch for Warning Signs
Children are notoriously silent about many instances of bullying which means that you must be vigilant and keep an eye out for warning signs. If your child doesn’t want to talk about his day, for instance, starts to spend more time alone in his room, or experiences sudden shifts in appetite or changes in sleeping patterns, it’s time to take a closer look at what’s going on behind the scenes.
Talk to Teachers and Staff at the School
If your child is being cyberbullied, it may fall outside the school’s direct control, depending on the laws in your state and local school district policies. That said, it’s always worth talking to the teachers and staff at your child’s school. They can watch for problematic behavior and keep an eye out for the emotional effects of bullying that your child may be exhibiting in school. Plus, when they’re aware of bullying taking place outside of the school walls, they can take more immediate action if incidents do occur at school.
Enlist the Help of a Psychologist
If you suspect your child is being cyberbullied, or even if your child is having a particularly tough time with the move, enlisting the aid of a psychologist or therapist can be helpful. It may be easier for some children to discuss sensitive subjects with a trusted adult other than her parents. Additionally, a therapist can provide you and your child with proven coping strategies to help you work through the transition and combat the emotional effects of cyberbullying.
Report Cyberbullying to Authorities
Keep documentation of cyberbullying incidents. Save text messages, take screenshots of messages and comments on social media, and document all other bullying interactions. You shouldn’t hesitate to report cyberbullying to online services (such as social media platforms) or even local law enforcement agencies, particularly if a bully is threatening your child or encouraging self-harm. Sometimes, reporting these incidents can stop bullying in its tracks as bullies may become fearful of legal consequences.
Cyberbullying can make moving to a new city or state even more stressful on young children and teens. Creating a stress-free home environment, getting your child involved in extracurricular activities, and enlisting the help of teachers, staff, and professionals are the best ways to help your child overcome cyberbullying at his new school. Never hesitate to report cyberbullying to online services and law enforcement.