Tips for Handling Cyberbullying As Divorced Parents

Today our children spend about 9 hours parked in front of a screen of some type. Whether it’s the television, a game system, computer, tablet, or smartphone, our kids are scrolling and tapping their days away. As they use their favorite technologies to communicate with their friends, they are inevitably being exposed to some very serious threats lurking behind their screens. While those dangers are very real, we often overlook the growing cyberbullying problem affecting our boys and girls.

The Ins and Outs of Cyberbullying

As parents, many of us are under the impression that cyberbullying is old news and was a trend a few years ago. After all, our schools have held countless assemblies, celebrities have raised awareness, and the media has launched a full-scale attack on cyberbullying. Unfortunately, cyberbullying is more prevalent today than it ever was. In fact, cyberbullying rates have tripled since 2013 with 87 percent of our kids admitting that they have encountered cyberbullying in some form.

At first glance, it is easy to say we should just ignore cruel remarks or turn off digital devices if our children experience cyberbullying. However, like everything in life, it isn’t that simple. Our children’s digital devices connect them to a variety of social media apps and sites allowing our highly connected teens 24/7 access to each other.

Cyberbullying quickly spirals out of control and within minutes, it is possible for messages, photos, and nasty comments to go viral. Soon a child is isolated from their friends, classmates, and community as they are left feeling that everyone agrees with the cyberbully. This can be traumatic for kids, often leading to depression, thoughts of self-harm, and anxiety.

10 Essential Tips For Handling Cyberbullying

As parents, we owe it to our kids to make sure they learn the necessary skills so they can safely handle their digital citizenship and overcome digital pitfalls like cyberbullying. Unfortunately, as divorced parents, that means we need to strive extra hard to keep communication lines open within our families to avoid these pitfalls. Listed below is a compilation of strategies and tips to help delete cyberbullying:

Create a safe environment for discussions. Avoid yelling, lecturing, or blaming. We want our children to open up about issues facing them which can be difficult as they are still healing from our divorces.

Lead by example. Our kids are watching our interactions and how we treat others. Modeling kindness and empathy will go a long way in preventing bullying behaviors.

Help children realize they are creating digital footprints that can never be erased. Make sure our children understand that anything they post, share, or create online might be shared or uncovered years down the line. This can impact college choices, scholarships, jobs, and even future spouses.

Teach social media etiquette. Let them know the rules for communicating online and how to handle digital devices appropriately. A good rule of thumb to remember is “The Grandma Rule” where they only post content that they would be comfortable with one of their grandparents seeing. As children become more active on social media stress that they should never share passwords, only friend people they actually know, and avoid sexting.

Let them know that they are not allowed to share or spread rumors online. Make sure you have discussed the power of words and how once something is spoken or written you can never get it back.

Have children inform a trusted adult if they encounter anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. Most bullying stops within ten seconds if a bystander intervenes. This is a sigh of relief, but it only works if we know there is a problem. 

Develop a technology contract. Create a list of expectations and consequences with your family so everyone is in agreement and our policies of use are consistent when it comes to social media and technology use. If possible, write this contract with your co-parent or, at least, share what you have created with him or her. If parents and children can come to an understanding on the rules surrounding technology in the home, this will prevent a lot of arguments, yelling, and heartache down the road.

Establish technology-free zones. This makes it easier for parents to keep tabs on a child’s usage, but it primarily offers a child a chance to get some much-needed downtime from their electronics. A good place to start is the dinner table and bedrooms.

If a child encounters cyberbullying, document and open messages together. This is our first line of defense to get authorities or school personnel involved. You will need evidence that the bullying behaviors have been repeated. As an added bonus, you will be there to support your child.

Finally, remind a victim that things do get better! Help a child realize this will be short lived and that they have a lot to look forward too!

Author's Bio: Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety. You can find Amy on Twitter @AmyKWilliams1