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How Do I Guide My Teen in Dealing with Cyberbullying

Few things can rattle us as parents more than finding out that our child is being bullied. When another person targets your child as a victim of physical or verbal abuse we feel the hurt and struggle as if it were us. It can be so difficult to process as a parent and can lead us to feelings of deep anxiety or even helplessness. Everything in you wants to immediately make things right. You want to hunt down the bully and teach them a lesson. After all, they call it being a “mama bear” for a reason. The reality is we won’t always be around to help our kids deal with bullying, so it is important that we be intentional in how we process issues related to bullying with them. That brings us to another issue that our parents likely never dealt with for us, the issue of cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is a form of bullying or harassment that happens behind the distance of a screen. This issue has grown so much in recent years that many states have passed laws protecting young people from this growing threat. As adults, we may be quick to block or ignore inappropriate comments, but that is not the case often with our kids. They listen to the attacks and internalize it. They often hide it from others because of the feelings of shame involved. They may not even think it’s a big issue or be afraid to ask for help. The more our children are connected to their phones, computers, and social media, the greater the chance they will encounter cyberbullying. Rather than cutting our teens off from technology altogether, it is more important that we prepare our kids to confront the issue. As parents, we must not only be aware of this issue, but work proactively with our child to develop the guidelines that will protect their heart, mind, and reputation.

Here are five ways you can better deal with the threat of cyberbullying in your home:

1.  Take Cyberbullying Seriously. It is true that we as parents can sometimes overreact and make an issue worse for our kids. However, in this area parents can be just as guilty of being dismissive. If your child feels bullied online then take it seriously. Check it out. Listen to them. Help them form a plan on how to handle this problem and follow up with them along the way.

2.  Talk About the Issue Openly. Exposing the issue of cyberbullying, whatever its form, begins to release the hold it may have on the heart of our kids. When we talk about an issue with our kids openly it becomes a real issue to them. This can be general conversations about examples they have seen of cyberbullying to more personal questions of how they may have been affected. You never know what they may be willing and waiting to share with you if you take time to ask and really listen.

3.  Help Form Healthy Habits with Technology. It’s our job as parents to model healthy tech habits and then lead our children to have healthy habits. Recognizing the benefits and pitfalls of the screens in our lives can go a long way to recognize and avoid situations involving cyberbullying. Having healthy habits will make it easier for us as parents to be in tune with changes in our teen’s behavior or potential threats of bullying.

4.  Maintain Access to Social Media Accounts. While your kids live under your roof and you pay the bills, you have every right to access social media content in your home. How you do this and move them toward maturity and independence in this area takes a great amount of wisdom. You can check in on online activity in a way that is both respectful and intentional. Your teen may naturally push for more privacy as they move toward young adulthood, but parents should remain engaged even if their teen is demonstrating tendencies of secrecy that could be covering harmful behaviors.

5.  Involve Scripture and Prayer. God’s word has more than enough to say for how we form a healthy identity and deal with hatred from the world around us. You can use difficult conversations about bullying to turn your teen’s heart to seek God’s comfort, wisdom, and guidance in how to respond.

Cyberbullying may be a real issue, but intentional parenting and healthy communication will go a long way to navigating these challenges and helping our children remain rooted in their identity in Christ.