Our keiki are more connected than ever. From computers to smartphones to social media, interacting with others online has never been easier. However, this new digital normal is not without its challenges, such as cyberbullying.
Bullying online can occur through text, social media like Instagram and Snapchat, forums or gaming platforms like Discord. It includes sending, posting, or sharing harmful content and personal information about others.
So, what can we do to protect our keiki and encourage pono behavior? Here are some tips on what to do if your keiki is experiencing or engaging in cyberbullying.
The contents of this post are extracted from a helpful article called “Mālama Ola Minute: Helping keiki cope with cyberbullying” by Kamehameha Schools. Learn more about bullying prevention at their website ksbe.edu.
If you’re worried that your keiki is being bullied, look out for these signs:
- Physical complaints, like headaches or stomach aches
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits, like skipping meals or binge eating
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
- A drop in grades and loss of interest in schoolwork
- Unhappiness with friends and avoidance of social situations
- Defensive or self-destructive behaviors
Understand that your keiki may feel scared or ashamed to tell you they are being bullied, or they may not tell you because they are afraid you’ll take away their devices. Here’s how you can offer your support.
- Collect the facts. Let your child explain what happened, ask questions, and avoid making comments that might come across as judgmental. Let them know you are there to support them and love them no matter what.
- Teach your keiki how to respond. Practice scenarios to help them ignore or develop assertive strategies to cope with bullies. Keiki can learn how to respond calmly and appropriately.
- Set boundaries with technology. Teach your keiki how to spread kindness online and set rules for pono behavior. Let them know you’ll help monitor the situation with parental control or monitoring software to keep them safe.
- Report threatening behavior. Report threatening messages to your keiki’s counselor, administrator, and the police. Document any text messages, emails, or posts on websites.
The most important thing to remember is to listen to your keiki, express empathy and model a confident, we-can-solve-this-problem attitude. In non-emergency situations, keiki can also utilize the Hi‘ikua Student Helpline to report any issues they are not comfortable bringing to their administrators or counselors.
Engaging in cyberbullying
If you receive a report that your keiki participated in cyberbullying, they may not understand they are hurting others. While posting thoughts and photos online is common, remind your keiki that these permanent posts have consequences and that showing respect online is essential. You can help your keiki understand that cyberbullying is unacceptable.
- Communicate. Talk to your keiki about the situation. Be direct about the issue and make it clear that you’re open to hearing their side of the story. Seek to understand why the social aggression is happening, so you can determine what steps need to be taken in order to stop it.
- Provide meaningful consequences. Any actions should be meaningful and limited in scope, such as revoking Internet and phone privileges for a set period of time. Depending on the severity of the situation, keiki should have an opportunity to earn privileges back over time.
- Make it right. Encourage your keiki to apologize in person, via text, or by other means.
- Monitor the situation. Obtain passwords to their social media and other online accounts and check their behavior regularly. Tell your keiki you’ll be monitoring their activity.
In the long-term, continue to keep open lines of communication with your keiki and explore the root causes as to why they may be engaging in bullying. It may be related to self-esteem and insecurity issues; or look around as keiki exposed to aggressive or unkind interactions outside of school are likely to repeat those behaviors in school.
Bullying Resource Center
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Fast Fact: Preventing Bullying
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Bullying Prevention Month
STOMP Out Bullying