I get asked about cyberbullying at this time of year, when school is either back in session or will be back soon. Parents want to know how to protect their kids. Teachers want to know how to protect students. The best thing for all adults to do is to let kids and teens know you are there for them if they feel they are being bullied online or offline, or both. Most kids and teens are afraid they will be punished if they say they are being bullied. I hear this directly from students when I do my talks at schools. You have to let these kids know that not only will you listen to them, you will help them resolve the situation as quickly as possible. This does not mean go to the bullies house and confront their parents. This means looking at what type of bullying is taking place.
If it’s online, where is it taking place? Facebook? Ask.fm? Tumblr? Snapchat? Somewhere else? When your child or a student shows you what is going on, make sure you take a screen shot of what is happening, then help the student report the harassment (which is basically what cyberbullying is), block the person and delete the harassing posts or messages.
If they are being harassed via email, have them save all those emails. Then open each email up and “show full headers” (we have instructions on how to do this on our site at http://www.haltabuse.org/help/headers/index.shtml), and forward the emails to the proper ISP (Internet Service Provider).
If they are text messages on a cell phone, take a screen shot of the messages or forward them to your email account to keep them as evidence. Then contact your cell phone provider to report the harassment.
If there are threats of physical harm targeted to a kid or teen or they are getting messages such as “You’d be better off dead,” “why don’t you just kill yourself,” it’s time to get the police involved. Go to your local police station – do NOT call or email them. Bring the evidence with you as well as your child and file a report to open up a case.
Tell the kid or teen to respond once to their cyberbully with a simple, “Please stop contacting me,” then do NOT respond after that. Continually defending yourself only shows the bully they are getting to you and that will escalate things.
BUT, do keep anything else the bully sends them. The more evidence your child or student has, the better.
Let the kid or teen know that you understand what they are going through and that you will help them. But, if you feel you can’t handle the situation yourself, then come to us at http://www.haltabusektd.org, click on Need Help? and follow the steps there. If you fill out the questionnaire, we will help you and your child or student for free. Since we resolve over 70% of cases we get without involving law enforcement or a lawyer, there is a greater likelihood we can help you end the harassment and bullying.
We also have a lot of great tips and resources on our site, as well as Phoebe, the Cyber Crime Dog (http://www.haltabusektd.org/phoebe/index.html). Take a few minutes to surf our site!
Finally, I’ve been doing a weekly podcast called True Crime Online – this week I am talking about the subject I’ve just written about. If you get 10 minutes, please watch it, share it and like it, would you? It’s at Youtube at http://youtu.be/YJHNEEmguaA