Keep Your Kids Safe
Cyber bullying part 2: Your child is being bullied. Now what?
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In our first article on Cyber bullying we looked at the actual act of cyber bullying, and ways of determining IF your child has fallen victim to a cyber bully. This week we will explore the “what do I as a parent do next” issue.
Let’s pick up where we left off. You are 80% certain your child is being targeted by a cyber-bully or bullies (yes, these bullies often hunt in packs – especially amongst teenagers, with GIRLS often being the biggest culprits)
Be careful when planning your next step. Stepping in with guns blazing is NOT the ideal way to manage the situation. Chances are, you child has NOT yet admitted to you that bullying is actually taking place – you have probably worked it out for yourself, on the basis of suspicions or material you have found. Once you have your suspicions, it is time to enlist the help of an older person, another adult, ONE your child sees as a ‘friend’ – unless YOU have a very open and honest relationship with your child, and you are certain your child would be truthful with you.
This adult should do a little probing in order to draw the truth out of the child. Chances are the child will either grudgingly admit or flat-out deny the bullying. The adult engaging the child SHOULD be able to determine whether the child is being honest.
1. If the child denies it flat out – but the adult does not believe the denials, the child should not be pushed or forced (at this stage). It is then suggested that the child’s friends are approached in an informal and friendly manner, in order to investigate further. If the friends also deny any problem, yet YOU (parent) are still certain something is ‘amiss’ , you could contact a teacher/sports coach at the school in order to get their opinion regarding your child’s behavioural and personality changes at school (IF ANY). If the teacher suggests that the child is behaving normally in terms of school socialisation etc – it might be that your suspicions are unfounded. In that case, if might be better to continue observing and monitoring your child for a further period of time. Keep communicating!
2. If the child admits to the adult that he/she is being tormented, the adult must attempt to get as much information about the bullying as possible. The most important information would be, the IDENTITY of the bully, and the modus operandi. It is highly likely that the child will ‘ask/beg’ the adult to NOT to do anything to make things “worse”. REMEMBER: your child is already suffering, and most would rather suffer in silence than have parents possibly making the situation worse. This is why many believe it is advisable to EDUCATE children in the ‘art’ of ‘dealing with cyber-bullying’. **IF THE NATURE OF THE CYBER-BULLYING IS SO SERIOUS THAT YOUR CHILD IS IN DANGER - THE AUTHORITIES MUST ALWAYS BE CONTACTED** - more about the relevant legal steps in next week’s article.
EDUCATING YOUR CHILD:
1. Remind your child, that HE/SHE is in control of the bully’s future; HE/SHE will determine what happens to the bully going forward.
2. Tell your child to keep records – copy and paste messages posted on Facebook; save sms messages; BB messages and ANY other online ‘bullying’ material posted by the bully which is directed at NOT ONLY your child, but also material directed at other victims. (This will prove that the cyber bully is a serial offender, and that your child is NOT the only victim)
3. Tell your child to immediately STOP responding to any of the cyber bully’s messages, taunts, online posts etc. If the bully is a “friend” on Facebook/ BB contact etc; have your child REMOVE the person from their contact list. This is no guarantee however, that the bully won’t sms your child or post derogatory messages on other platforms. Changing a cell phone number is only a short term solution as the bully will at some stage get your child’s new number, and the process will continue.
4. Bullies rely on getting the desired reaction from their victims, which is why so many cyber-bullies stop their torment once ignored, and move on to new victims who react to the bullying. Simply blocking/ignoring the bully could work.
5. Remind your child that should he/she reply to the bully in a threatening, aggressive and similarly taunting manner as that of the bully: your child could well be accused of cyber-bullying as well*
6. If the bully continues to harass/belittle and taunt the victim using other channels, once the victim has started ignoring the bully, it is time to become directly involved as a parent.
DIRECT ACTION: PARENTS
1. If the bullying does NOT stop and harassment against your child continues on sites such as Facebook or Mxit – contact the relevant sites’ security divisions, and insist that the abusive material is removed – or that the bully’s profile is removed.
2. Continue to keep records of any offending messages, sms’s, comments uploaded or sent by the bully. Also remember that sim cards are now registered via RICA, so if a bully is using a cell phone to send threatening sms’s, they will no longer be able to chop and change pre-paid sim cards at will. Where there is a sim card – there is a name, address and ID number. If calls are being made from a ‘private’ number to harass your child – service providers will provide the number with the necessary court orders obtained by the SAPS.
3. If the bully is known to your child (as in 98% of cyber bullying cases), get the bully’s details from your child. Cell phone number, name, school, address if known etc.
4. It is now time to combine point 4 (here): Contact the Life skills teacher at your child’s school/guidance counsellor:
5. If the bully is at the same school as your child – contact the Guidance Counsellors/Head teacher and explain the situation. These persons have protocols in place to deal with bullying. You could also request a meeting (via the school) with the parents of the bully. The school could act as mediators. It is important to remember that the bully’s parents will often refuse to acknowledge that their son/daughter could be so ‘cruel’. That is why it is important to bring your records to any meeting – irrefutable proof of their child’s involvement. The parents of the bully must also be made aware that they can be held liable for ANY claims for damages directly attributed to their child’s behaviour. The school could also initiate their own sanction at this stage. IF: after a meeting such as this, there is no let up on your child, the authorities HAVE to become involved.
6. If the bully is NOT at the same school as your child, you will have to approach the bully’s parents directly OR arrange a meeting with the Head teacher at the school the bully attends. It is important, that you do not ‘attack/threaten’ these persons telephonically, OR meet with them/speak to them without 1 or 2 independent ‘witnesses’ present. This ensures that there can be no false accusations made against you, and your behaviour at such a meeting. Try to remain firm, yet diplomatic. If the ‘bully’s parents refuse to enter into decent discussions, inform them that you will be seeking legal counsel, and then TERMINATE discussions immediately.
7.It is also important at this stage to consider some form of counselling for your child, should he/she be showing obvious signs of distress and trauma – this route should be followed at any stage during the management of the situation ‘process’. Religious leaders, school counsellors, clinical psychologists, Lifeline counsellors etc are all suitable options – *next week we will be publishing a few helpful contact numbers*
In our final article on Cyber bullying we will go into more detail with regard to the various legal and civil steps parents can take to combat cyber-bullying)