My Child is Being Cyberbullied. What Now?
Guest blog by Ruth Carter
Times have changed. When a child was bullied in the past, they had a reprieve when they went home at the end of the day. Now that we have the internet and cell phones, the bullied child can be harassed from afar at all hours; and because the perpetrator doesn’t have to face their target, they may be even crueler online than they would be in person. This can have a devastating effect on your child.
If your child is being cyberbullied, there is much you can do to protect them. Here are some steps to consider:
1. Do not engage the bullies. Do not respond to their messages, texts, or posts. You may want to respond once to say that their communications are harassment and that it will be reported if it does not stop – and then follow through on that promise if the bullying persists.
2. Cut off the bully’s access to your child by blocking them on social media sites, blocking their email address with your email provider, and blocking their number from being able to send your child text messages.
3. If the harassment occurs over social media, inform the social media company about the harassment. It is likely a violation of the site’s terms of service which might lead to the site disabling the bully’s account.
4. If that doesn’t work, consider changing your child’s email address, deleting their social media profiles and starting new ones with new login credentials (possibly with a fake name if allowed), and changing their cell phone number. Direct your child to be very careful about whom they share this information with so it doesn’t fall into the bully’s hands.
5. Wherever your children are active in social media, you need to have an account there too and be connected to your child. You should be able to see everything they’re saying and everyone they’re talking with. You should know your child’s password in case you need to sign on to your child’s account and see what they’ve been doing.
6. If you know who the bully is contact their parent and inform them of the situation. Get the school involved if they are classmates to ensure that the school is enforcing the school’s social media policy.
7. Many states have laws against cyberharassment, including Arizona. If the problem persists after telling the bully to stop, report it to the police and consider filing for an injunction against harassment from the court. If your child is being physically harmed, report that as well.
8. You may want to consult an attorney to determine if you should consider filing a civil lawsuit against the bully and possibly their family and the school if they did not protect your child against being emotionally or physically harmed at school.
9. Keep a record of the harassing messages and take screenshots of anything the bully posts on their own social media profiles that is aimed at harming your child. You may need it if you are going to pursue criminal charges or a civil lawsuit against the perpetrators. The law acts on what you can prove, not just what you know, so your will need more than your word to back up your claims.
10. Throughout this process be mindful of your child’s emotional well-being. Make sure they have people and activities in their life that help them feel good about themselves. If necessary, consider counseling or a support group.
If your child is being cyberbullied, seek help from social media and personal security professionals, a social media attorney, and other professionals who can advise you on how to address the situation. There is so much education and support available that there is no reason why any family should suffer alone.
Ruth Carter is a licensed Arizona attorney and the owner of Carter Law Firm in Phoenix. Her practice focuses on intellectual property, social media law, business formation and contracts, and flash mob law. Cyberbullied herself, Carter has a passion for helping prevent the cyberbullying of young people. She is also the author of The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed. Carter was selected for the American Bar Association Legal Rebels in 2012 and the Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 in 2013.