Cyberbullying: What It Is and How You Can Help Your Child

  • Kids can be mean to each other — sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident. It’s a natural phase of child development. And technology only makes being mean easier. But that doesn’t mean it’s right. While it’s kids’ jobs to test limits and explore their identities, it’s our job as parents and caregivers to teach kids empathy and resilience and to be compassionate and understanding so they seek us out when they need help. 

    Staying involved in your student’s digital world, just as in their real world, can help you protect your student from unknown dangers, including cyberbullying.

    What Is Cyberbullying?

    Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. Sometimes cyberbullying is easy to spot — for example, if your child shows you a chat, discussion, or text that is harsh, mean, or cruel. Other cyberbullying activities are less obvious, like impersonating a victim online, setting up a fake account or webpage and posting personal information, photos, or videos designed to harass and bully another person.

    Cyberbullying also can happen accidentally. The impersonal nature of text messages, instant messaging, and emails make it very hard to detect the sender's tone — one person's joke could be another's hurtful insult. Nevertheless, a repeated pattern of emails, texts, and online posts is rarely accidental.

    How Parents Can Help

    • If you discover that your child is being cyberbullied, offer comfort and support.
    • Let your child know that it's not his or her fault. Praise your child for doing the right thing by talking to you about it. Reassure your child that you will figure out what to do about it together.
    • Let someone from your Student’s school (the principal, a counselor or a teacher) know about the situation. Students are expected to follow the District’s Student Code of Conduct at all times, whether on school property, in online classrooms and/or while using school online learning platforms. Any behavior that violates this Code of Conduct will be dealt with accordingly.
    • Encourage your child not to respond to cyberbullying, because doing so may make the situation worse. Do take a screen shot or copy the threatening/inappropriate pictures, messages, and texts, as these can be used as evidence with the bully's parents, school, or even the police.
    • And don't forget to set a good example yourself — model good online habits to help your kids understand the benefits and the dangers of life in the digital world!
    • You can also confidentially report criminal activities or potential harm directed at students to Michigan’s student safety program OK2SAY through any of the following.

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