When you first find out that your child has been involved in a cyberbullying incident as the perpetrator, your emotions can be overwhelming. You might feel shock, denial, embarrassment and anger towards your child, and though these feelings are normal, they need to be put to the side because your first responsibility as a parent is helping your child learn from their mistake. You will be successful at doing just that by holding your child accountable for their actions and making sure they understand the consequences of those actions.
Understanding the consequences for cyberbullying is critically important because:
- While laws vary by state, a cyberbullying offense can result in academic expulsion and/or misdemeanor/felony charges, depending on the severity of the case.
- You, the parent, may find yourself sued for libel due to your child’s online actions.
- Consequences help your child learn valuable life lessons.
It’s important for your child to know that you are there to help them learn from their mistake. To help rectify the situation:
- Your child needs to apologize to the victim in person. Go with them so they know they have your support.
- Next, your child needs to apologize to the parents of the victim.
- If any other child was involved in the same cyberbullying incident, then both you and your child need to alert the other parents so they are aware and can respond appropriately.
- Your child should delete the offensive material that was shared and post an apologetic comment instead.
In parallel with your child’s actions, it’s important that you:
- Implement a family technology contract or agreement, if you haven’t already. This will help your child understand that there are rules related to their use of technology, and consequences for breaking any of those rules.
- Limit your child’s use of technology for awhile. Let them know that technology is a privilege, not a right. They are obligated to learn how to become a responsible digital citizen.
- Remind your child that it is never, ever OK to be disrespectful, hurtful or mean to another person, online or offline, and that such behavior won’t be tolerated.
- Use monitoring software so you can be alerted to and aware of any concerning online or cell phone activity. This will allow you to be proactive versus reactive.
- If the school is aware of the incident, let them know of the action you and your child have taken.
- Finally, give your child a hug. Remind them how much you love them. Let them know your first job is to be their parent and that you’re there to help them rectify and learn from their mistakes.
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