teen laying on couch with green hoodie on head, holding and looking sadly at phone.

Addressing Cyberbullying at Home

It is recommended that parents and caregivers supervise their children’s online activities and know how to help children deal with cyberbullying and other issues. Parents should be knowledgeable about current technologies and establish clear expectations for technology usage and safety.

Parents should teach children:

  • Not to give out personal information online.
  • Not to share their personal password with anyone other than their parents.
  • Not to join in when they witness online cruelty.
  • Not to forward hurtful messages or pictures to others.

Important to note is the bystander dynamic that plays a role in face-to-face bullying is also present in instances of cyberbullying.

Just as parents monitor their children’s face-to-face relationships and behavior, parents should make it clear to children that their online relationships and behavior will be monitored. In addition to keeping computers in public areas of the home, parents may use tools to limit or monitor their children’s online contacts.

Many internet service providers and cellphone companies offer services that support online supervision. In addition, parents may purchase software that monitors or blocks social network activities.

When issues emerge online, parents should discuss these issues with their children and assist them in developing appropriate responses.

Parents should strive to establish routine and ongoing communication and adopt a problem-solving approach to assisting children in dealing with online challenges. While setting limits around technology usage can be helpful, banning children from technology is not recommended, because this may actually encourage children to hide their online lives from their parents.

sad and scared female teenager with computer laptop suffering cyberbullying and harassment being online feeling desperate and humiliated in cyber bullying concept

If a Child Experiences Cyberbullying

  • 1

    Do not respond to the bully. Children who engage in cyberbullying activities are seeking a reaction from their target. Even if it might seem warranted, do not respond out of anger.

  • 2
    Save the evidence. Save harmful messages and take a screenshot or print a copy of web content. This evidence can aid authorities when they investigate the situation.
  • 3

    Immediately seek help from a trusted adult. Prior to any cyberbullying experience, children and parents should identify who their child should notify.

  • 4

    Work with adults to ensure the person who engages in cyberbullying activities is held accountable. If the cyberbullying includes a direct threat to someone’s physical safety, a police report may be warranted. If the cyberbullying occurs at school, is brought into class, or continues as face-to-face bullying during the school day, the bullying should be reported to school administrators.

  • 5

    Contact the technology host to request that offensive content be removed and cyberbullies blocked. Many technology companies accept abuse complaints via an online portal or through email.

What Should Schools Do to Address Cyberbullying?

Ensuring that children are equipped to deal with cyberbullying requires education to prevent cyberbullying and effective responses when it occurs or is suspected.

Adopt school policies that specifically address cyberbullying.

Schools should integrate cyberbullying into their district, acceptable use policies for technology, and required bullying policies. If the issue of cyberbullying is a persistent problem, it may be appropriate to have a specific policy related to online harassment and cyberbullying.

Develop clear administrative guidelines for responding to and investigating reports of cyberbullying.

Make sure these guidelines clearly spell out how investigations will be conducted, when law enforcement or parents will be contacted, and how discipline will be administered. While it may not be possible for schools to administer disciplinary consequences for online behavior that occurs outside of school, schools may conduct educational meetings with students and parents to share their concerns and discuss possible responses.

Include cyberbullying education as part of the scope and sequence of courses that promote technology literacy.

In addition to educating students about these issues, schools should work to educate parents about technology and youth development by integrating these themes into newsletters and outreach activities, including tips on how to prevent and respond to cyberbullying.

Establish partnerships with parents, the school, the parent-teacher association, YMCA, police department and other community groups to develop strategies for addressing issues of cyber-safety and cyberbullying.

Consider inviting representatives of law enforcement or the local district attorney office to participate in an advisory group that develops these strategies.

Integrate cyberbullying into memorandums of understanding with the local police department.

Make sure the school and law enforcement know how each entity will respond to cyberbullying and when it is appropriate to refer online issues to the police.

Recognize that when cyberbullying is motivated by a child’s status as a member of a protected class, the school may have an obligation to act under federal and state civil rights laws.

In such cases, the administrators should consult the school solicitor or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. Protected status categories include race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, gender, handicap or disability, use of a guide or service animal, GED diploma versus high school diploma, being known to be related to a person with a handicap or disability, and being retaliated against for reporting crimes.

Provide support to students who experience cyberbullying, even if the incident did not occur in school.

Because children experience real distress when bullied online, it is important that adults pay attention and offer support. School counselors and Student Assistance Program (SAP) professionals may play a role in helping children cope with the emotional effects of cyberbullying. Schools should make referrals to professionals, when appropriate.