As parents, we’re often concerned about what our children are exposed to online. We’ve been given tools on how to apply filters, block inappropriate websites and other safety measures. What we don’t often consider is how vulnerable our children are to cyberbullying, either as a target or as the cyberbully.
Due to Covid-19, remote learning replaced classroom instruction for a lot of students, with social media being the primary way our kids have maintained interactions with friends and their school community in general. Because of this new learning platform, our kids are spending more and more time in an online environment that allows for cyberbullying to take place, and parents are often not even aware of it. “More than half of U.S. teens report having experience with cyberbullying, or online behavior that may involve harassment, insults, threats, or spreading rumors.” Parents are often concerned about their child being bullied, rather than their child being the bully.
According to data collected from the World Health Organization (WHO) in children ages 11-15, researchers found that the more adolescents perceived their parents as loving, the less likely they were to engage in cyberbullying. “These findings point to the importance of parental emotional support as a factor that may influence whether teens cyberbully—and more importantly, it’s how teens perceive the support they receive from their parents.” We should take note that it’s not whether or not we think we’re being supportive, but what our children think.
The study done by WHO researchers does not suggest that a lack of parental support causes cyberbullying, but that the parent/child relationship may influence bullying behaviors in children. With this in mind, it’s important to consider how family dynamics affect the instances of cyberbullying when taking measures to prevent it.