Help protect your child from cyberbullying
From Public Safety Canada
Cyberbullying is serious — but it can be stopped.
Most youth spend a lot of time online. There is a good chance your child has witnessed, been the target of, or even been cyberbullied themselves. There are actions you can take to prepare and protect your child in case it ever happens to them.
Cyberbullying comes in many forms
Cyberbullying can happen wherever youth interact online, including on social media, texts, chats, email, comment sections, apps, and online games. Because it happens through technology, cyberbullying tactics are constantly changing.
Here are some common forms of cyberbullying:
- Making fun of someone or how they look
- Sending mean, threatening, or harassing messages
- Spreading embarrassing or hurtful gossip, secrets, rumours, or lies
- Posting images, videos, stories, memes, jokes, or cartoons to embarrass, or humiliate someone
- Tricking someone into providing personal information and then sharing it
- Sharing intimate images or videos of someone without their knowledge or permission
- Excluding someone or ganging up on them
- Creating a poll that makes someone look bad
- Impersonating or logging in as someone and getting negative attention
- Screen capturing and sharing what was supposed to be private or temporary
What you can do to help prevent cyberbullying
Talk with your child about cyberbullying
Have a discussion with your child about cyberbullying. This will show them you think it is an important issue – and will make it easier for them to come to you in the future. Here are some tips:
- Let them know you are aware of the issue. You can mention recent stories in the news or social media and how it seems like an important issue for teens.
- Ask your child if they have experienced or witnessed any kind of cyberbullying and let them tell you about it.
- Listen to what they have to say. Make it a conversation, not an interrogation.
- Reassure them that you won't take away their social media access or online time, so they are free to confide in you without fear of losing privileges.
Be aware of what your child does online
It is important to stay informed about how your child spends their time online. These tips will help you keep them safe:
- Learn what sites your child uses and what accounts they have. Talk with them about what they do online, and who they do it with.
- Keep up to date with the technology. Learn about the connected devices your child is using, which apps and sites they use, and how they use them all.
- Try it yourself. Set up a social media profile, make posts and share content, play some of their games. You will have a better understanding of what your child is doing and how to talk with them about it.
Set ground rules for your child's online activity
Setting some simple ground rules with your child can help keep them safe online. Here are some tips:
- Insist your child use privacy settings. Make sure your child knows how to use the privacy settings and how to restrict who sees the messages, images or videos they post on social media sites and apps.
- Let your child know you may take action if there's reason for concern. Explain it is part of your job to keep them safe, and if you feel there's a risk, you may monitor their online communication.
- Educate your children about passwords and how important they are. Encourage them to create different strong passwords for each site and to never share their passwords with friends.
- Make sure they use a password to lock their devices. This will protect them if their mobile device – and what's on it – ever gets into the wrong hands.
- Ask younger children to give you the passwords they use. Let them know you will only ever use them in an emergency. Teenagers are more likely to see this as an invasion of their privacy.
Teach your child safe online behavior
Youth connect and engage with their friends online. This is important, but it is not without risks. Here are some things you should help your child understand:
- Once you post something online, it doesn't go away and you can lose control over it. It can be shared and even altered by others. Even deleting something doesn't necessarily remove it from the Internet.
- Wait a minute before posting. It is fun to share your photos and ideas, but be careful what you post and where you post. Take a moment to consider who is going to see it and how others might feel about it.
- Do not publicly share personal information online. That includes where you are or will be, the name of your school, phone number or email address, usernames and passwords, photos and videos you wouldn’t want strangers or anyone else to see.
- Not everyone online is who they say they are and some people may want to harm you. Encourage them not to accept friends they have never met in person.
- Treat everyone with respect. Avoid saying things online you wouldn't say to someone's face. Do not say mean things, make fun of others, share secrets, gossip or lies, exclude or gang up on someone.
- Do not share naked images or videos of yourself or others online. Always be careful who you trust because you cannot control what other people do.
Teach your child how to respond to cyberbullying
Cyberbullying often stops when action is taken. You can help your child be prepared by teaching them what to do if it happens to them. Here are some things to talk with them about:
- Do not respond to the cyberbullying. Let your child know that bullies crave attention, and replying to them gives them more power. If your child receives a bullying message, teach them not to engage and not to openly show their emotions with those doing the bullying if your child sees them in person.
- Do not retaliate. It gives the bully the attention they are probably hoping for – and it reinforces the idea that bullying is okay. It is never okay.
- Document the incidents. This is important if the cyberbullying continues or gets worse. If your child is ever a target, let them know they should save emails and take screen captures of the offending online posts or text messages.
- Block the person doing the bullying. This is one of the most effective ways your child can stop cyberbullying early. Most social media sites and email solutions provide ways to block users from your account.
- Tell someone. Encourage them to come to you or another trusted adult if they ever become a target of cyberbullying.
- Give them alternative sources of information in case they do not want to share with you. See the Resources for Youth page to see where they can learn how to deal with cyberbullying and how to have pictures or videos removed from the Internet.
Be available to help your child
It is important that your child feels comfortable coming to you if they have seen, been targeted, or involved in cyberbullying. Here are some tips to help reassure them you are there to help:
- Let your child know they can always come to you – even if they have made a mistake. Assure them that you won’t overreact. Your child may be reluctant to tell you if they have posted or shared something they shouldn’t have because they think they will get in trouble or have their devices taken away.
- Remain calm and help your child. Help them remove posts, images or videos that they want to take down, and talk about what kind of things are okay and not okay to post in the future.
- Encourage your child to talk with you if they ever see that someone is being cyberbullied.
- Encourage them to come to you if they ever become a target of bullying themselves. Assure them your only concern is to keep them safe, and that you won't make the situation worse by ‘freaking out' or taking away their devices.
Take action to stop cyberbullying
Support your child by learning the warning signs, keeping lines of communication open, and being ready to take action.
Take steps to address your child's actions by talking with them, monitoring their online behaviour, and ensuring they understand the seriousness of cyberbullying.
An animated video (that you can show your kids) that introduces the topic of online reputation and gives high-level advice.
Find additional information in this booklet for parents/caregivers of kids aged 6-11
Find additional information in this booklet for parents/caregivers of kids aged 12-17
Fact Sheets about Cyberbullying
Fact Sheets about Online Reputation
Fact Sheets about Sexting and Sextortion
For more information
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