Written by Néhémie Bikin-kita
With the creation of the internet, social media, smartphones, and other smart devices that many people use every day, all day, cyberbullying – the bullying that occurs on digital and online platforms such as social media or text messaging1 – has become an increasingly common issue. We’ve been through the stats on cyberbullying, now here are some tips that may help you (or others you know) deal with cyberbullying:
Finding out that your child is displaying bullying behaviour can be a disconcerting experience for parents. Surprise, anger, confusion and self-blame may be some of the emotions that surface when you hear this news.
The most important thing, however, is to address the issue as quickly and best as possible.
🔸 The Why Behind It
One of the first things to do is talk with your child – find out why they did what they did, and what they are feeling. There are various reasons as to why a child would display bullying behaviour – they may be feeling anxious, depressed, or lonely, may be lacking self-confidence, and/or may be bullied themselves1. Whatever the reason for their behaviour is, finding out what caused them to do so can be the first step in figuring out how to improve your child’s behaviour2.
🔸 Examine Your Own Actions
While you should not blame yourself for your child’s behaviour, it is important to look at how your own behaviour may be influencing your child. Children model behaviours that they see in others; if a child sees their parents resolving issues through violence, aggression and/or harsh words, they are likely to reproduce this behaviour with others. Fostering a positive home environment can go a long way to help your child redress their behaviour3.
🔸 Retributive vs Restorative Justice
Whatever the reason is behind your child’s bullying behaviour, they need to acknowledge that they have hurt someone else and need to make amends for it. Many parents choose punishments that fall into retributive justice category (i.e. punishments such as time out, or even corporal punishment), however a better approach would be using methods that fall into the restorative justice category, i.e. teaching them to take responsibility for their actions and make amends4.
🔸 Using Restorative Practices:
Rather than just making your child take time out, or depriving them of something that they enjoy, a restorative approach teaches kids to be accountable for their actions and allows them to come up with their own ideas of how to right the wrong. This includes asking your child questions that will help them reflect on their actions and come to understand how their actions made the other person feel, and asking them to come up with a way to best apologise and/or mend their relationship with that person5.
Parents can play a big role in addressing bullying6, making it essential for them to stay alert to their child’s behaviours, and to take immediate action whenever a bullying situation occurs.
1 Child Mind Institute. (2019). My Child is a Bully | Signs of Bullying | What Makes a Bully | Child Mind Institute. [online] Available at: https://www.google.com/amp/s/childmind.org/article/what-to-do-if-your-child-is-bullying/amp/ [Accessed 15 Jun. 2019].
2 Kidshealth.org. (2019). Teaching Kids Not to Bully (for Parents) – KidsHealth. [online] Available at: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/no-bullying.html [Accessed 15 Jun. 2019].
3 Stevens, V., De Bourdeaudhuij, I. and Van Oost, P. (2002). Relationship of the Family Environment to Children’s Involvement in Bully/Victim Problems at School. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 31(6), pp.419-428.
4 Mason, K. (2013). Bullying no more. Hauppauge, NY: B.E.S. Publishing.
5 Bullying No Way!. (2019). Restorative Practice. [online] Available at: https://bullyingnoway.gov.au/RespondingToBullying/HowAustralianSchoolsRespond/RestoringRelationships/Pages/Restorative-practice.aspx [Accessed 15 Jun. 2019].
6 StopBullying.gov. (2019). What You Can Do. [online] Available at: https://www.stopbullying.gov/what-you-can-do/index.html [Accessed 15 Jun. 2019].
bBrave chooses to avoid using the words ‘bully’ and ‘victim’ as bullying cases may be very complex. An individual may very well fall into both categories, and labelling individuals with these categories tend to negatively affect the lives of these people.
bBrave is the first anti-bullying NGO in Malta. Its mission is to raise awareness on the different forms of bullying, to facilitate assistance for individuals suffering from bullying and for the reform of individuals displaying bullying behaviour in Malta.
The Organisation is registered with the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations (VO 1422), the Registrar for Legal Persons (LPA-118), and Aġenzija Żgħażagħ (AZ 252/2017). bBrave is also a Core Member of the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), the international coalition of organisations and individuals that are united against bullying.