By Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D.
By way of introduction, I am a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. I appreciated the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Division of Research at the Boca Raton Public Library on how we can reduce cyberbullying. Here are the major tips I shared.
- Make sure your child feels safe. Take the time to learn exactly what happened, and the nuanced context in which it occurred.
- Don't freak out, but also don’t minimize the situation or make excuses for the aggressor.
- Collect evidence. Take screenshots of anything which can serve as clear proof that your child is being cyberbullied. Keep a record of any and all incidents to assist in the investigative process.
- Contact the social media company, site or gaming platform involved, and typically they will respond to your complaint in 24-48 hours. We've compiled an ever-growing list of contact information of these businesses here: cyberbullying.org/report.
- Remind your child that they can control their online experience by blocking and reporting other users who have harassed or annoyed them. Also, they should not hesitate to unfollow or unfriend anyone who compromises the quality of their online experience.
- Try to cultivate resilience in your child when they deal with relational conflict that is minor in nature. Everyone has to deal with people who are rude and malicious and spiteful in adulthood, and so children must face and rise above mild incidents with the support and guidance of loving parents. This can provide you the opportunity to make sure that their self-worth isn’t solely rooted in peer perceptions but instead in who they are becoming as a person and what their future can look like.
I hope that these strategies help you to feel encouraged, empowered and equipped to be involved in your child’s online life, and come to their aid in meaningful ways should they ever experience cyberbullying. I know it’s easy to feel alone and out of your league – that was the sentiment shared by many attendees. This reminded me to always ensure that what I convey to parents is clearly actionable and rooted in “Parenting 101” strategies – where the goal is not to get overwhelmed by all of the different apps or devices out there, but simply to do your part to raise a kind human being. Here at FAU we will continue to lead the nation in our efforts to address cyberbullying through social, behavioral and computer science, and would love to connect with you to make greater progress. Reach out at any time – we are here to help.