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Beat a Cyberbully: Here’s How Parents Can Help

Victims of cyberbullying can feel helpless and may not know what to do. A family from Los Alamitos finds the resources on jw.org helpful for dealing with bullying. Courtesy photo.
Victims of cyberbullying can feel helpless and may not know what to do. A family from Los Alamitos finds the resources on jw.org helpful for dealing with bullying. Courtesy photo.

While remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic lowered reported instances of bullying, parents fear that, for some students, going back to school will mean going back to being bullied.

As the parents of three sons, Andrew and Candice of Los Alamitos have made it a priority to be observant and note any changes in their behavior that could indicate they are being bullied.

“I can tell right off the bat when I go to pick them up [from school] if they’ve had a good day or a bad day,” Candice said. “I can tell by their body language and demeanor.”

Now 15 years after the inception of National Bullying Prevention Month in October, technology’s ever-greater presence in children’s lives has given bullying a new outlet. With just a click, cyberbullies can taunt, harass and threaten relentlessly, even reaching into the home via cellphone or computer. As a result, victims report feeling hopeless, isolated and even suicidal.

What can parents do to protect their kids? Taking an interest in their children’s online world can make a difference, says the National Parent Teacher Association.

This interest does not necessarily require parents to become tech experts. Instead, the federal stopbullying.gov site advises parents to watch for subtle clues that something is wrong, such as their child becoming withdrawn, hiding their screen when others are nearby or reacting emotionally to what is happening on their device.

For Andrew and Candice, that means being keenly aware of what “normal” looks like for their three sons, ages 13, 16 and 18.

“When they come home from school, I pay extra close attention,” Andrew said.

Talking with kids openly — and often — helps too. “The more you talk to your children about bullying, the more comfortable they will be telling you if they see or experience it,” UNICEF says in its online tips for parents.

If Candice senses something is off with her sons, she uses a direct approach to figure out what is wrong. “I try to always be one step ahead,” she said. “You try to let them talk it out and give them tools to be better prepared for whatever that situation is.”

As their two daughters enter their teens, Houston parents Thiago and Auboni have found that talking less and listening more works best.

“We try to focus on being approachable and listening actively without reaction,” Thiago said.
Beyond talking, listening and observing their kids, parents should not be afraid to make and enforce rules for online activities, experts say.

Thiago and Auboni’s girls are allowed to play online games, but they are expected to turn off the live chat feature to limit interactions with strangers.

“We reassure the girls that we trust them and respect their privacy, but they have to stay within the boundaries we’ve set,” Auboni said.

To ensure the online safety of their sons, Andrew and Candice find that using an app that limits the internet during certain hours is helpful.

Both families cited the tips and reminders they have considered together with their kids from free resources available on jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Andrew especially recommends the videos, “Beat a Bully Without Using Your Fists” and “Be Social-Network Smart.”

“These videos are done in a way where kids gravitate to them,” he added. “They seem to always address things that are trending or challenging for youths.”

This article was released by Jehovah’s Witnesses