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What should I do if I find out that my child is cyberbullying?

Parents often ask us what to do if their child is being cyberbullied. But we also need to consider the possibility that our children may cyberbully. Although cyberbullying often happens alongside more traditional forms of bullying, we do often come across children who would never bully in person, yet do so online. There is often no eye contact when we are online, you can’t see someone’s face, and children don't necessarily realise the impact of liking, commenting on, or sharing something nasty about someone else online. 

So what should you do if you find out that your child has been involved in cyberbullying?

Firstly, you may be shocked with their behaviour but stay calm and try not to let your own feelings cloud how you react with your child. Tell them what you have been told and then ask them what happened in as non-judgemental way as possible.

Try to establish if they truly understand the impact of their behaviour. Sometimes kids do not realise that what they think is a joke or is just a bit of fun has actually really hurt someone. They may also have been uncomfortable with what was going on, for instance in a group chat, but didn’t know what to do.

Ask them to stop and to figure out a plan to address the hurt that they have caused. For instance, they could start by apologising. You may decide on withdrawal of Internet or other privileges until trust is earned back. It’s also important to acknowledge that we are all human, and sometimes we do things which do not make us proud of ourselves. The best thing we can do when this happens is to take responsibility, make amends where we can, and learn not to do it again.

Make sure that you enlist the help of others. Get advice from their teacher or school principal or a parent that you trust.  There are good resources out there that can help. The Centre for Cyberbullying and ABC have great information for parents. For teachers and principals who are interested in finding out more on the topic and how to implement a whole-school approach to cyberbullying, check out the book Understanding Cyberbullying by Mona O’Moore, the founder of the Anti-bullying Centre and special advisor to CyberSafeIreland.

Be proactive. There are fantastic resources out there that can help to prevent cyberbullying. Check out these lists of great books that can help to build empathy and resilience in children