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The cyberbullying summit: Steps for prevention

Children and teens spend extensive hours on their phones and online. Their social lives are intertwined in texting, gaming and social media. Kids communicate through these channels in negative ways, too. Your child might receive harmful and negative content about themselves or their classmates online, known as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can be humiliating for kids and teens, leading to depression and anxiety.

The Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit on Cyberbullying was recently held at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The summit included panel discussions with representatives from Google, Twitter, Facebook and the Family Online Safety Institute. A law enforcement panel addressed the issue of sending illicit photos and how it can lead to cyberbullying. The panels dug into how deeply cyberbullying can affect kids. Parents want to know how these platforms are protecting their children and what they can do to stop it.

Preventing cyberbullying

While parents and teachers cannot police what children do online at all times, they can take steps to help prevent cyberbullying. The following five tips can help:

  • Talk to kids about bullying. The line between teasing and bullying is thin. Help kids understand that sharing mean and harmful pictures or messages about their classmates is wrong. Explain how they can stand up to bullies safely.
  • Encourage kids to explore their interests. Hobbies, sports and group activities can help boost confidence in children and help them make friends. This can protect against bullying behavior.
  • Treat others with kindness and respect. Children model our behavior. They watch how we treat our friends, colleagues and family. Lead the way.
  • Communicate with them. Talk to kids often about school and friends. Ask them how they feel and then listen to what they say. Spending 15 minutes talking to them about their day can reassure children and help them feel supported.
  • Talk to a professional. Get a school supervisor or an attorney involved if cyberbullying continues. Bullying is illegal under some circumstances.

When it becomes illegal

Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful behavior. Children and teens are protected under both federal and California laws from bullying. If someone is spreading lies online about your student, then it can be considered defamation. Bullying based on a protected characteristic, such as gender, sexual orientation, disability or race, can be considered a civil rights violation.

Taking these steps to prevent cyberbullying can protect your student but taking further action may be necessary in some cases.