Monday, January 27, 2014

How to respond if your child has been the target of online bullying

If your child has reached out to you and asked you for help to handle a bullying situation, what would you say or do? Below I provide some general tips and strategies to help you have a successful conversation and handle the most frequently reported problems of bullying. Remember, you are the expert about your own child and also the role model for how to handle difficult situations.

Step One
Set yourself up for a successful conversation with your child.

1. Take your child seriously, and listen. If your child wants to talk to you about a bullying situation, take it seriously. Your ability to listen to your child and understand their feelings and experiences means everything to your child. It is a basic human need to be heard and understood.

2. Find the best space to have the conversation. Find a private place to talk with your child where you will both be comfortable and your child feels safe to talk freely. Consider taking a walk or going for a snack. Give your child the physical distance they need during the conversation.

3. Before you talk to your child, check in with your own feelings. This includes: taking a deep breath, recognizing the strong emotions you may have about the situation, and, most importantly, managing them before you talk with your child. Using positive “self-talk,” like saying to yourself, “I love my child and want the best for him/her, so I will remain calm when we talk” can help you get into the right mindset so that the conversation stays positive. Imagine how you would feel if the situation had happened to you (so that you can “walk in their shoes.”)

4. Remember, you are the role model. Your child is learning about the best and worst ways to respond to challenging situations like bullying from watching you. Your feelings are contagious. If you stay calm, your kids will more likely be calm and learn how to deal with challenging situations effectively. If you notice you are still upset and not sure you can stay calm while talking to your child, hold off until you feel ready to have a successful conversation.

Step Two
Talk with your child about the problem.

Bullying comes in many forms online, including someone saying mean things, spreading rumors, posting an inappropriate photo of your child, someone not leaving leave your child alone, or someone making threatening remarks to your child. The first step to helping your child is to be a good listener and then talk through the problem.

Give your child unconditional support. No matter what has happened, let your child know you will listen to them. Let your child get out the full story without interrupting or criticizing them. Your child needs to feel emotionally safe in order to be open and honest with you. Reassure your child that you will not go behind their back to “fix or report” the problem and that you will work with them to find a positive resolution.

Some key points to guide your initial conversation:
  • Be a good listener don’t put words into your child’s mouth or jump to conclusions.
  • Use a calm and steady voice through out the conversation. Avoid using harsh or accusatory language, which can result in your child either shutting down or becoming more upset. 
  • A void being judgmental or critical about what behavior they were engaged in before the bullying incident. 
  • Do not blame your child for being the target of bullying. 
  • Void making promises you can’t keep, but do reassure your child that you want to help find a successful resolution to the problem, and that you will do your best to make sure their life doesn’t get more difficult. 
  • Use gentle exploration and empathy. This will help you to find out what happened, how your child feels about it, and what they might want to do. Make sure your child knows that the reason you are asking questions is because you need all the facts, so you can do your best to help them solve the problem. 
 Conversation Starters: 
 “I’m so sorry this happened to you, and I’m glad you told me. Can you tell me more about what happened and how you are feeling?”

Void comments like: “I I told you not to be friends with (aggressor’s name).” or “Come on – you’re making a big deal about nothing – bullying is just a stage every kid goes through.”

Why you are feeling angry, afraid, sad, embarrassed. Let’s go find a quiet place so we can talk privately.”  I promise I will do my best to help you manage this. As long as you are not in any danger, I won’t do anything you don’t want me to do.”  It’s good for both of us to think through this together.”
I really want to help you figure out what to do.”

If your child is being threatened, you might say something like the following:
I’m really glad you came to me. Let’s talk through this together and figure out what to do.”
This is something that we need to take care of right away. You did the right thing coming to me.”

If your child doesn’t want to do anything about it:

Your child might not want to do anything because they are afraid of losing a relationship, escalating the situation, being bullied again, or are uncomfortable expressing themselves.  It’s important to make sure that’s not the reason your child doesn’t want to do anything. Explain the difference between “tattling” and “helping.” Tattling is about getting someone in trouble. Telling someone that you have been bullied isn’t tattling, it’s helping ensure the safety of someone who might be in trouble.

Step Three
Work with your child on an action plan. Empower your child to come up with a few ways to deal with the situation. Sometimes an initial plan doesn’t work out and it’s important to have multiple options.

Here are some ways to help your child manage the most common types of bullying. If it’s a serious situation (e.g., someone is threatening your child), take immediate action because your child’s safety is the priority.

1. Solve the problem together. Ask your child what they want to do and how you can help.

First, ask fact-finding and open-ended questions to better understand what happened.

Example Conversation Starter:

“ In order to best help you, I need to know what happened and who was involved.”

“What was going on between you and the person before this happened?”

“ Let’s look at the photo/post together.”

If you feel like you need more information or are not satisfied with what you are hearing, ask “What else might we do?” to help generate alternative solutions.

2. Using Facebook to create an action plan. Some issues between friends on Facebook can be handled with the multiple tools that Facebook offers.

First, ask fact-finding and open-ended questions to better understand what happened.

Here are a few things to know about reporting on Facebook:

Reporting is easy. Nearly every piece of content on Facebook has a ‘Report This’ link.

Social Reporting tools enable you to solve many problems effectively. Facebook enables you to report issues either directly to the person you are having an issue with OR to a trusted members of your community. Explore these options after clicking “This Post/Photo is a Problem.”

Your child can report the post to Facebook If you click this box in the report flow, Facebook endeavors to review every post in a timely manner. If the post or photo does violate the terms, it will be removed.

Unfriend the person. Your child might want to unfriend the person. This means the person will be removed from their Facebook friend list. This will cause News Feed stories to be reduced, and you will no longer be connected in the social graph. {We may want to talk about adjusting privacy settings here}

Block the person. Your child may want to block the person altogether. This prevents the account who is being blocked from starting conversations with your child or seeing things that your child posts. They will also no longer be able to find each other on Facebook.

3. What to do if you and/or your child think the situation can be handled offline. Brainstorm some action steps that each of you think are realistic and likely to be effective.

General tips:
If your child is being physically threatened, feeling scared or has any other strong emotions about what has happened, let them know that you are there for them and will do everything you can to ensure their safety. Explore with your child who else might help to resolve the problem like a trusted teacher or friend.

If your child expresses motional distress or thoughts of self-harm it is important to seek help from a mental health professional immediately and make sure your child is not left alone. You can ask a school counselor or psychotherapist for advice.

It’s best not to contact the parents of the bully when you are upset, to avoid escalating the situation. If you feel strongly that it is the right thing to do, be sure you are calm and motivated to find a positive outcome.

Revisit with your child access to instant messaging, e-mail, social networking websites, cell phone or the Internet in general.

Options to consider for more serious incidents:

If the person who you are reporting is part of the school community, decide with your child who the best person would be to talk to at their school such as the principal, a counselor or a trusted teacher.

– Conversation Starter: “Your safety is the most important thing. It is really important to let someone at your school know, so they can help prevent this from happening again. Who do you trust the most that we could talk to together?”

I f the person is using an online service to target your child, report the content to the online service provider, and ask them to remove the offensive material.

– Report the incident or offensive profiles to your service provider and request the post be taken down.

– Trace e-mails and text messages. Attempt to identify the perpetrator.

– Save the evidence, i.e. print screen or save pages.

– Contact a lawyer if additional support is needed.

Step Four
Follow up with your child.

1. Ensure your child feels safe to go back to school. Work on a plan with your child for how they will navigate their day.

2. Suggest to your child they find a close friend to be with at school the following day. Ask your child who they would choose to make sure they have someone they can turn to when they feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

3. If your child doesn’t have a friend to ask, suggest that they choose an older brother or sister, relative, or trusted teacher.

4. Role playing can help your child learn and practice strategies to handle possible scenarios that might occur at school (e.g., seeing the bully in class or the hallway).

– Your child should use simple, direct language – and if they have to interact with the bully, they should try to avoid showing anger or fear, but rather show they are calm and confident.

Report to law enforcement for serious incidents (threats, intimidation or exploitation)

– Report the serious incident to police.

Sexting: Sometimes bullying can start by a sexting incident in which your child thought they were harmlessly sharing intimate photos with someone they trust, only to be threatened by the bully that unless some demands are met, the photos will be shared. This is especially sensitive because it can turn into extortion. It is important to:

– Turn to law enforcement to help resolve the issue – both sexting and exploitation are against the law.

– Conversation Starter: “(Child’s Name) – you may not be aware of it – but, sending naked photos online is really serious and can get you in trouble. If you are under 18 it’s actually against the law, it is the same as child pornography. So – I take this seriously – and, if this doesn’t stop, we can call the police and file a report.”

– Help your child to come up with a positive message they can say to themselves when they see the person who bullied them such as, “I have tons of friends and am strong and capable.”

– Work with your child on what they might say and their “stance” if they have to interact with the person who bullied them. For example, they should stand at a distance and use a calm and even voice.

– If the problem was resolved – the post or photo was removed – your child should not go out of their way to approach the bully, however, if their relationship has the potential for being repaired, they can thank them and let them know that they did the right thing.

-- Check in with your child. At the end of your initial conversation and each day for a few weeks check in to make sure they feel comf ortable and safe at school. You also want to be sure that the situation as been handled as best as possible.

No comments:





About Me

Your First Visit

  About   About aboutPullout   Archive   Archive archivePullout   Follow   Follow followPullout