Home > Identity Theft > Cyberbullying 101: What Parents Need to Know

Comments 0 Comments

By Kelly Santos

Learn how to recognize cyberbullying warning signs and how to shut it down, all while strengthening your relationship with your child. Here are the most-asked questions we get from parents new to the world of cyberbullying:

1. So what exactly is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying happens when someone (of any age) uses technology to harass, embarrass, intimidate or stalk someone else. Cyberbully tools include emails, instant messages, text messages, social media, photos, videos or even chat on online gaming sites. Cyberbullying leaves its victims feeling scared, isolated, intimidated and humiliated. It’s not a joke, a phase, or a “kids will be kids” part of growing up.

2. How is it done?

Cyberbullying is limited only by the bully’s imagination and brazenness. It might be a Facebook account the bully sets up in the victim’s name to make embarrassing fake posts. Or maybe it’s pictures of the skinny kid in gym class shared on cell phones with a degrading caption. It might be unsettling or stalker-like emails like, “I know where you live, and I’m watching you.” Or maybe it’s a sore loser on an online gaming network who badmouths an opponent and encourages other players to ban him from their games. Sometimes bullies make fake harassment reports against victims so they eventually lose their Internet Service Provider (ISP) or instant messenger accounts.

3. Would I know a cyberbully if I saw one?

Maybe. Many cyberbullies are also bullies in the physical world. Or, they may be victims of bullying themselves who have found a way to feel powerful by tormenting others behind the safety of a screen. Cyberbullies often know their victims and may be “frenemies,” seeming at times to be friendly and fun, only to attack later. That’s why cyberbullying is so emotionally hurtful. Because the Internet gives bullies anonymity, they’re less empathetic. They can’t see the cues (tears, expression, tone of voice) that might otherwise cause their physical-world counterparts to back off a bit. When they can’t see the person being hurt, other kids find it easier to pile on.

4. Can I bully-proof my kids?

You can show them how to become less-attractive targets (and even prevent them from becoming bullies themselves):

  • Teach them that the same rules for interacting with people in the real world also apply online. Bullies can be set off by a perceived slight in a posting your child has made.
  • Model appropriate online behavior yourself. Resist the urge to rant or joke about others online.
  • Maintain an open-door policy. Your child will be more likely to confide little problems before they become big.
  • Arm your child with some “What ifs …” For example, “What if someone posted mean things about you online?” (Don’t retaliate in kind; it only ups the ante and makes the “game” more fun.)

5. How can I tell if my child is being bullied?

SocialScout can be set up by parents to alert them to suspicious situations, requests from adults and many other scenarios. But your gut can tell you plenty, too. A bullied child often shows signs that shouldn’t be dismissed as ordinary preteen or teenage moodiness:

  • Your child suddenly seems withdrawn.
  • He or she cuts off contact with friends.
  • Your child stops (or conversely, obsesses about) using the Internet or cell phone.
  • Grades or attendance take a dive.
  • Your child becomes the target of traditional bullying (in-person taunts or physical contact).

6. If I learn my child is being bullied, what should I do NOW?

  • Soothe your child’s emotions. Big hug. I’m on your side. Don’t judge (“What did you expect, hanging out with that kid?”). Don’t trivialize (“Sticks and stones …”). Being heard and understood goes a long way.
  • Stay calm. Kids clam up if they think you’ll confiscate their phone or do something embarrassing, like giving the bully’s mother a piece of your mind. If it’s a one-time prank, see if the problem passes on its own.
  • Assess the threat. How far has this gone? Mean words? Embarrassing photos? Physical threats? If your child is in danger or someone is encouraging others to harm your child, you can’t wait and see. Notify your child’s school and the police. They’ll guide you on an immediate response and offer tips.
  • Block the sender (depending on the type of harassment) using ISP and instant messaging blocking features.
  • Prepare to do more. This can include reporting bullying incidents to the sender’s ISP or reporting to your child’s own ISP if his or her account has been hacked and compromised. Also see what the law can and can’t do to help you.

To learn more, check out more resources at StopCyberbullying.org.

This article was originally published on Identity Theft 911 Blog.

Image: Lars Plougmann, via Flickr

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team