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Addressing cyberbullying: Offering support may help more than taking control

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 Takeaways for parents

As I wrote in 2010, I was struck by how helpful Boyd’s takeaways could be to parents of children who are being hurt online, whether by themselves or others, and I wish all parents of social media users worldwide could “hear” this:

"Supporting your daughter or son is not simply about finding the bully and prosecuting them or about going after their parents. Teens who are the victims of bullying – whether by a stranger, a peer, or themselves – are often in need of support, love, validation, and, most of all, healthy attention. I can’t tell you how many teens I’ve met who’ve been bullied by people at school who then turn to tell me about how their parents are absent – physically, mentally, or emotionally. And how often I hear teens complain about their parents trying to ‘fix’ things by getting involved in all the wrong ways. Ways that make the dynamics around bullying so much worse."

Why seizing control doesn’t usually help

This is a big reason researchers give for children’s underreporting of online harassment (only about 25 percent do): that the reaction of the adults they report to could make the harassment or social marginalization of the target worse.

By summarily taking control of the situation without listening to and involving the targeted child, adults are doing the exact opposite of what that child needs – to regain his or her dignity or self-respect and get back some sense of the control that’s been lost in a situation that may’ve been unfolding for some time (and we all know the danger of acting on assumptions).

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