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5 top tips for parents to combat cyber bullying

The Australian Government’s Office of the eSafety Commissioner provides Rosie’s top tips for parents.

Finding out your child is being cyberbullied must be heartbreaking. As a parent, I imagine all you’d want to do is take some kind of action to stop it—and stop them from hurting—straightaway. But, sometimes, first reactions are not good for your kid, or the situation. So before you jump in as Super Parent and save the day, think about my top 5 tips.

Don’t take away their device

This is seriously the worst thing you could do. By removing your child’s phone or computer, it will alienate them from their peers, and not only that, it removes an essential tool for them to communicate with friends. Sure, teach them strategies like blocking or unfriending, but don’t just take the device. It’s the whole ‘teach a man to fish’ thing: by removing the device you’re not teaching your child online safety, you’re just cutting them off … and probably making the situation worse.

Stay calm and open (this means no big reactions!)

Think about how you usually react when your kid comes with a problem. Can you feel the frown or the stress setting in? Here’s where you have to stop and reset your reaction. You want your child to feel that if they tell you about the situation, that you’re not immediately going to get really upset or angry or anxious. You want them to know you’re going to stay level-headed and able to have a good, helpful chat. The best way to do this is to make sure you have an open dialogue from the beginning. If you don’t already have this sort of relationship, trying it. Talk to them without being judgemental or angry, and make them feel like they can come to you with anything, without fear of being reprimanded.

Gauge the problem: is it a mountain or a molehill?

How bad is the bullying? You need to get a grasp on the extent of the problem before you can decide what to do next. Is it a few remarks here and then? Or is it more serious? More than that, you need to discern how badly it’s affecting your kid personally—if the bullying itself is not very intense, but your child seems quite seriously affected, this could be a symptom of something larger. In this case, you may need to seek some outside help, whether it’s a school counsellor, a helpline, or an external professional.

Realise that being a good parent means sometimes kids have to learn to fix things themselves

Sadly, bullying is not a rare issue. It happens to most of us at some time, and as we know, sometimes it doesn’t stop after adolescence. In order to cope with what life sometimes hands down, we need to be equipped to work through things ourselves. So, in order to help your kid cope, think about what tools you can provide. This might mean talking about good coping strategies, or pointing out that a reaction is all bullies want, so maybe just try ignoring them?

The importance of empathy

Empathy is a trait that can sometimes be undervalued, and it can also be overlooked. But teaching your child empathy is incredibly important; not only in coping with bullies but also to teach them about their own behaviour, for example, ‘How do you think Jane felt when everyone in class laughed at them and you joined in?’. Empathy is a valuable two-way street, and a bit more of it is a good thing.

Let’s face it, this isn’t an easy time for you or your kid, but there are things you can do. You don’t need to feel powerless or helpless when the best thing you can do is just be there.


See also Parent’s guide to online safety: 

Covering a number of key online safety issues, the Parent’s guide to online safety offers practical, issues focused information and advice for parents of children of all ages. Topics covered include:

  • Cyberbullying
  • Social networking
  • Unwanted contact
  • Sexting
  • Inappropriate content; and
  • Online safeguards

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