Here is how to handle a cyberbully
Editor’s note: This is part two of two.
There’s nothing quite as tedious as the eye roll of a teenager. It’s irritating.
It can also be encouraging.
Most parents I speak with get the “irritating” part, but “encouraging” is not a word they use when describing that quick flick of the eyeballs, shifted ever so briefly to the heavens as the ultimate sign of contempt.
This is exactly the reaction I got from my teenager and her lackey, my pre-teen who, at 11-years-old, is serving as understudy to the sulky ways of her older sister.
Their contempt for me today (yes, it changes depending on the day) rests with a correction I gave when they mistakenly referred to someone as a cyberbully.
The target of their cyberbullying accusation was a player on the massively popular platform Roblox. Except that it wasn’t cyberbullying. It was game play.
“Most kids don’t bully or cyberbully. You know that right?” I asked my daughters. “So what makes you think Tam07 (the accused) is a cyberbully?”
They responded with terms and words that were all related not to cyberbullying, but to game play – the kinds of things you hear kids say when they’re losing. Badly.
“She kept blocking,” “She wouldn’t get out of the way,” and “She never responded no matter how many times we told her to stop.”
It sounded like Tam07 was simply kicking their little sister’s butt on a game she probably wasn’t old enough to play.
I explained that Tam07 was probably older and knew game strategies and tricks that their 8-year-old sister didn’t understand.
“That’s not cyberbullying,” I said.
More importantly, I explained what cyberbullying is.
“Imagine if Tam07 was constantly harassing your little sister on this game, calling her names, following her around and being mean to her, making her feel bad or hurt. Imagine if she threatened your sister.”
“That’s cyberbullying,” I said.
Here are the steps I told them to follow if they see a cyberbully:
Tell a grown-up. I even tell my older friends, most of whom are technically grown-ups, to ask others if they think the activity they’re seeing online is, in fact, cyberbullying.
Don’t react to the cyberbully. This goes for kids and for parents. It’s hard to keep your cool when your kid is being bullied. Instead, document the evidence and report the bully when you think it’s time.
Block and delete. Two of the most powerful tools on smartphones, games, and social media: block and delete. Some platforms will only let you block, but sometimes that’s all you need to stop the harassment.
Sure, I may have been a little irritated with their eye roll reactions, but I was encouraged when my kids actually listened to me explain how to identify a cyberbully, and what to do when they see one.
Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn.com.