Young girl looking at phone/cyberbullying

Source: Pond5

Cyberbullying happens all year round, but with school starting and kids more likely to be in front of their computers, it’s a good time to address this troublesome issue.

Dr. Erin Belfort, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship Training Director at Maine Medical Center has some helpful tips.

Good general advice for all kids: Think carefully before posting, texting or sharing! Kids and teens aren’t always thinking about their digital footprint and the potential future consequences of their communication but they need to remember that once it’s out there it’s permanent!

I like to advise kids to follow the “grandma rule.” If you wouldn’t want your grandma to see it then don’t put it out there.

All kids should understand the definition of cyberbullying. Common Sense Media (which is a great resource for kids and parents) describes it as communication to “make another person feel angry, sad, or scared, usually again and again.” So, the key factors are that cyberbullying is intentionally hurtful and repeated.

Many schools have policies and rules indicating that there is zero tolerance for cyberbullying. For kids on the receiving end of cyberbullying there are a few things to do.

  • First ignore or sign off from the application or social media site.
  • It’s important not to retaliate or respond which can be hard for kids when they’re upset or angry and just want to shoot off a response.
  • Block the bully.
  • Save or print out messages.
  • Report it! Talk to a trusted friend, parent or adult at school.
  • Sometimes teachers, parents, school administrators, school resource officers or local police need to get involved.

For bystanders or witnesses of cyberbullying, be an “upstander.” You can stand up for your friend by not being a silent witness. Respond with “that’s not ok” or a short statement that makes your position known. Bystanders may be in the position to report cyberbullying also. These are some of the responsibilities that come with being a good digital citizen.

Helpful Resources

Common Sense Media offers some great resources for kids and parents on cyberbullying and many other topics in this digital world.