Cyberbullying: How to deal with, prevent and help those affected
SPOKANE, Wash. — Today’s children have constant access to technology. Access they can bring to school and have with them in bed at night.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. KREM 2 asked for viewer questions on bullying and how parents can help their children in a bullying situation that can sometimes go unnoticed.
A lot of the questions asked were about how parents should approach reporting and handling bullying.
How does Spokane Public Schools tell parents should deal with bullying? We took those questions to Student Services Coordinator for Spokane Public Schools, Chris Moore.
“I think if you have a prior relationship with another family, I think it's very appropriate to go and say 'Gosh, I'm concerned with what's going on. Can we talk about this parent to parent?'" Moore said. "If it's a family and it's a student that you don't know anything about, I would encourage you to not address it with that parent and to go to the school if it's really starting to impact your child. If it's a safety issue, and violence is being threatened, I would definitely go to the police on that as well."
As for preventative measures, the first step is knowing those at risk and risk factors. Bullying can happen anywhere but, depending on the environment, some groups and young people who are socially isolated may be at greater risk.
However, just because a child may have a risk factor does not mean they will be bullied.
According to stopbullying.gov, children who are bullied are often perceived as “different” from their peers. This can mean anything from being a different size, being new to the school, wearing glasses or different clothing.
Another risk factor is being perceived as physically or emotionally “weak”. Children who are considered less “popular” or do not get along well with others could also increase risk.
Another question that keeps being raised is how to identify if your child might be the bully.
“They might become aggressive at home. They might be more introverted at home. And it's so important to talk to your students, to listen without judgment, and create a safe place for your student to talk to you,” Moore said. “If there is a child that is bullying, they're bullying for a reason.”
According to stopbullying.gov, children who are aggressive, easily frustrated, think badly of others, view violence in a positive way or have friends who bully others are signs a child could be the bully.
Some parents who expressed their frustration with the way they have seen bullying handled.
“I would never want a parent to be frustrated with the lack of support from any individual or school in Spokane Public Schools. We always have added support, more intervention. There is always hope and I don't want any parent to feel like they have to throw in the towel and walk away from any situation because we always have support and help,” Moore said.
So how can a parent recognize if their child is being cyberbullied? Many of the warning signs revolve around the child’s use of electronic devices. If you see a noticeable change in how frequently they use the device, that can be a sign of a problem.
Also a red flag is if a child is hiding the screen or device, avoids talking about what is on the device or stops enjoying social situations, especially those they used to like.
But if a parent feels like they are running out of options, Moore said there are other resources available.
“If they feel like they're not getting the support that they need, and they've gone to the teacher, they've gone to the counselor, they've gone to the building principal, there is always downtown administration they can reach out to for added support and help,” Moore said.
While most of the questions were from parents seeking answers for how to help their children, others said bullying is simply a part of growing up.
“I think that any experience that creates an adverse experience is a teachable moment, for the person that is doing the hurt and the person who is receiving the hurt. And none of us are walking in these children's shoes,” Moore said. “And so we can't be so quick to judge. But what we do need to is reach out to both parties, find out the story, what's going on, ask questions, provide support.”
If you think your child is involved in cyberbullying, there are several things you can do.
First, recognize if there has been a change in mood or behavior and explore what the cause might be. Try to determine if these changes are happening when they use electronic devices.
Next, talk. Ask questions about what is happening. Document harmful posts, screenshots and content if possible. Most laws and policies show bullying is a repeated behavior.
Next, report it. Most social media platforms and schools have policies on bullying and how to report them. If a classmate is cyberbullying, report it to the school.
“We can't dictate what happens outside of school hours but we can certainly ensure with a plan with real specifics, that the kids do not cross paths during the school day,” Moore said.
Last step, support your child. Peers, mentors and trusted adults can sometimes intervene publicly to positively influence the situation. Guidance counselors can also be helpful, to give the child a place to turn if the bullying continues.
“Spokane Public Schools takes bullying very seriously, and we can put protective measures in place to support the person that is being bullied and also to figure out what is going on with the person causing the harm,” Moore said.