Social media and the internet can provide a place of inclusivity and positivity for children with special needs and learning disabilities. However, it can also provide a convenient venue for cyberbullying. As a parent, you may wonder what you can do.
In today’s world, cyberbullying is an unfortunate reality in which special needs children can be particularly vulnerable. Parents throughout the Bay Area, Southern California and across the country can take steps to learn the signs of cyberbullying, strategies to confront the issue with their child and potential legal options.
Learning the signs of cyberbullying
Many kids do not want to admit to being the victim of any kind of bullying. Watch for sudden changes in your child’s habits, hobbies and behaviors to alert you to potential signs of cyberbullying. If your child suddenly avoids the internet or wishes to avoid social events that they previously enjoyed, they could be the victim of cyberbullying.
Options to confront the issue
You may do all you can to prevent cyberbullying, including by limiting time spent on social media, controlling privacy settings, monitoring their social media presences and more. However, no matter the preventative measures you take, cyberbullying can still occur. Consider the following strategies from stopbullying.gov to confront the behavior:
- Talk to your child. Let your child know that they can talk to you. Ask them questions about when the cyberbullying began and who is involved.
- Keep records of the bullying. Document the cyberbullying by taking screenshots of harmful posts to show a pattern of the behavior.
- Report the offensive behavior. Report offensive or harmful posts to the social media platform, your child’s school and any other applicable venues.
- Consider bringing in reinforcements. Bullying can take a toll on kids. Get support from your child’s peers and other adults to help lift their spirits.
- Discuss anti-bullying strategies. If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), discuss your bullying concerns during school meetings.
In some cases, you may have a case to pursue legal action against the aggressor. While both federal and California laws protect kids from bullying, bullying based on a protected characteristic can constitute a civil rights violation. Such protected characteristics can include race, gender, disability and more.
Cyberbullying can be devastating to witness as a parent. Take care to do what you can to prevent, confront and potentially report cyberbullying to protect your child.