Oct 19, 2015

Dr. Gellner: Cyberbullying is more in your child's life than you may think, so what should you do if you're a parent and have a child dealing with this? I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner and we will discuss cyberbullying today on The Scope.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering the Healthy Kids Zone with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: Cyberbullying is when someone uses any form of digital technology such as email, social media, texts with a cell phone, anything like that to humiliate another person, harass them, or threaten them with harm. So what do you do if you find out that you are the parent of a child who is being cyberbullied?

Your child may be the victim of cyberbullying if he or she becomes sad, angry, or upset during or after using the Internet or a cellphone. Or if they avoid discussions or are secretive of computer or cellphone activities. No matter how much pain it causes kids are often reluctant to tell their parents or teachers about cyberbullying.

They're embarrassed. Parents should always monitor a child's use of technology and remember never punish a child whose been the victim of cyberbullying. Regardless of how much your child resents it you can only protect him or her by monitoring what they do online. Keep the computer in a busy area of your house so it is easily monitored rather than allowing your child to use a laptop or tablet in his or her bedroom.

Know who your child communicates with online and go over your child address book and buddy list with them. Ask them who is each person and how your child knows them. Insist on knowing your child's passwords and learn the common acronyms kids use online and in text messages. If your child is cyberbullied, it's going to be hard for them to deal with.

You need to remember to give them a lot of positive reinforcement and let them know it's not their fault. No matter what a cyberbully says or does they should not be ashamed of who they are or what they feel. The cyberbully has the problem not your child. Make sure that your child sees a counselor. Often cyberbullies start in school.

Talk to your school's psychologist or principal if your child is being cyber-bullied to let them know what's going on and often they can help. If your child is really struggling with the cyberbullying and having a lot of symptoms of depression or anxiety, talk to your child's pediatrician. They can often help you get established with a mental health provider who can teach your child tips on how to control their symptoms, or if it's severe enough discuss medications.

The most important thing is making your child feel loved and prevent them from feeling like they are worthless and potentially going to harm themselves. But what if your child is the cyberbully? It can be difficult for any parent to learn that their child is bullying others but it is important to take steps to end the negative behavior before it has serious and long-term consequences for your child.

Some cyberbullies can learn aggressive behavior from their experiences at home. So it's important to set a good example with your own Internet and messaging habits. As a parent you may be setting a bad example for your kids by communicating with people in ways that you wouldn't do face to face. Being rude to your child's sports coach, a waitress, or other service provider in front of your child.

Or you may be talking negatively about other parents or teachers, so your child thinks it's acceptable to use verbal abuse to intimidate others. Your child may not understand how hurtful their behavior can be. Encourage your child to look at their actions from the victims' perspective. Remind your child that cyberbullying can have very serious legal consequences.

Let your child know you'll be monitoring his or her use of computers, tablets, and Smartphones, and if necessary remove access to all technology until their behavior improves. Make sure your child understands your rules and the punishment for breaking them. Children may not think they need discipline but lack of boundaries sends a signal that the child is unworthy of the parents' time, care, and attention.

Bullying in any form is not anything that should be tolerated. Many schools have anti-bullying programs. Your home should have one as well. The bottom line is do not tolerate bullying. Your child's life may depend on it.

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