Think back to the bullies you had at your school. Imagine them calling you names, tripping you in the hall as you headed to class, and embarrassing you in front of all your peers.
Now imagine that bully can follow you wherever you go. They’re there when you’re at home, in the car, hanging out with your friends on the weekend—everywhere. And they can use technology to create compromising fake images of you.
That’s what it’s like to have a cyberbully. Our children are up against something unrelenting and ever present once it enters their lives.
Want to know how to prevent cyberbullying (or how to manage it if it’s already happened)?
In this article, we talk you through how to prevent cyberbullying with 11 specific actions.
- Unfortunately, victims of cyberbullying are highly unlikely to tell their parents about it
- One of the biggest difference makers is changing online settings and social media controls so that cyberbullies can’t contact your child
- There are tools that can help — Canopy can prevent activities that lead to cyberbullying (like sexting and use of social media)
Why Cyberbullying Prevention is Important Right Now
Bullying doesn’t look like it once did.
Instead of on the playground it happens online. Or worse, it happens both online and in-person, leaving your child with no escape from the torment.
Cyberbullying is any action online that is meant to cause harm to another. Common examples are threatening or cruel texts, hurtful messages and posts on social media, accounts dedicated to mocking people, revenge porn, and name calling on gaming platforms. Cyberbullies can be someone your child knows or a complete stranger.
And thanks to the prevalence of social media and the ever expanding tech landscape, the problem has grown to concerning levels.
A 2018 Pew Research study reported 59% of teens said they’d been a victim of cyberbullying. The type of bullying ranged from name-calling to having explicit images of them shared without their consent.
You can see the breakdown of cyberbullying and prevalence in the graph below:
Yet children who are victims rarely tell their parents. As little as 1 in 10 teen victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse.
What’s really concerning is that there are now AI tools online that can generate false images. Bullies and sextortionists can take a completely innocent photo of your child and turn it into something explicit.
It’s already happening. A town in Spain has seen this happen to teenage girls between the ages of 12 and 17. One or multiple people have used innocent photos of them from social media to create fake nude photos which have been posted online and distributed to others.
What are the effects of cyberbullying? It’s not uncommon that their fear and stress from being a victim translates to emotional, physical, and academic struggles.
For almost every parent we talk to at Canopy, cyberbullying is an alarming reality. It’s normal for you to be worried about the experiences your child may face online.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to prevent cyberbullying and we’ll make sure you know what they are.
11 Ways to Prevent Cyberbullying
Below, you’ll find 11 different ways to prevent cyberbullying. Combine them all and you’ll have a sturdy defense against anyone wishing your child harm online.
1. Know where cyberbullying is most likely to take place and what kind
Cyberbullying isn’t random. It often happens in specific online spaces, and understanding what those spaces are is the first step to cyberbullying prevention.
Social media is a common place for cyberbullying to occur. Bullies love an audience and social media platforms provide one instantly. Social media also provides easy access to their victims through features like messaging, tagging, and content sharing.
In a January 2021 survey, a staggering 75% of online harassment victims in the U.S. revealed they had been cyberbullied via Facebook.
Twitter and Instagram were close behind, with 24% of victims stating they faced harassment on these platforms. And early signs show bullying on TikTok is on the rise.
So, what can you do?
Stay informed about the most popular platforms your child uses. Regularly ask them about their online experiences and any new apps or games they’ve started using.
By being aware of where cyberbullying is most likely to occur, you can better guide your child and set protective measures in those specific areas.
2. Talk to your child about using social media responsibly
Our first method showed that cyberbullying often takes place on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (X). Not every family is comfortable with their children having access to these platforms but many children, especially teens, do.
You may want to take the step of blocking access to social media platforms altogether.
Here are some ‘how to’ guides to get you started:
- How to block adult content on Facebook
- How to block adult content on Twitter
- How to block Tik Tok on phone (iPhone and Android)
- How to block inappropriate content on Snapchat
Blocking access to social media is easy to do with Canopy and the level of control can be changed as your child gets older. If you do go this route, make sure you explain to your child why you’re doing it.
But if social media use is going to happen in your household or if your child can experience it through friends, it’s worth discussing its dangers and encouraging responsible use.
You can start by discussing the purpose of social media and the importance of thinking before posting. Remind them that once something is online, it’s hard to take back. Tell them to avoid sharing personal details, such as their address or school, and to be cautious about who they befriend online.
It can be helpful to explain the ‘why’ behind these precautions. Explain how this information can be used against them and the damage it can cause.
And of course, tell them what to do if they experience cyberbullying. You want your child to be the 1 out of 10 who report abuse so that you can help them through the experience.
Need help? Read our article on online safety tips for parents. It covers ways to monitor and protect your child.
3. Regularly check in on their social media
By keeping tabs on your child’s social media activity and the activity of others in their social circles you might be able to spot if they’re being targeted by cyberbullies.
We don’t mean spy or invade their privacy. Your child should know that you’re checking in on them.
Here are some red flags to look out for:
- An influx of negative comments on their account
- Inappropriate content that they’re being tagged in
- Fake profiles using your child’s identity
- Posts or stories spreading false information or rumors about your child
- Private messages that contain threats or mean spirited language
Regularly checking for these signs and discussing any concerns with your child can help in early detection and prevention of cyberbullying.
Practically, you can set aside a weekly or bi-weekly “digital check-in” time with your child. Use this time to go through their accounts together, discuss any concerns, and reinforce the importance of online safety.
4. Protect their online accounts
Ensuring your child’s online accounts are secure is a fundamental step in preventing cyberbullying.
A compromised account can lead to personal information leaks, unauthorized posts, or even direct harassment from hackers.
Here’s how you can bolster the protection of their accounts:
- Use strong passwords with complex combinations of numbers, symbols, and letters
- Activate two-factor authentication where available
- Ensure that the answers to security questions aren’t easily accessible or guessable
- Be cautious about linking multiple platforms together. If one gets compromised, it can lead to a domino effect on others.
- Teach your child to recognize and avoid suspicious emails or messages that ask for personal information or direct them to dubious links.
- Periodically check and clean up app permissions, ensuring no unnecessary apps have access to their account information.
5. Set up privacy settings on their social media accounts and devices
Privacy settings play a pivotal role in determining who can view your child’s online content, who can interact with them, and what data third-party apps can access.
Properly configuring these settings can significantly reduce the risk of cyberbullying.
Here’s how to go about it:
- Set platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to ‘private’. This means only approved followers or friends can view posts and personal details.
- Adjust settings to only allow friend or follower requests from mutual friends or contacts.
- Set up approvals for tagging. This means your child can review and approve any post or photo they’re tagged in before it appears on their profile.
- Review which apps have access to cameras, microphones, and location services.
- Turn off location sharing on social media posts and check-ins.
- Set Direct Messaging to ‘friends only’ or disable it altogether if not needed.
6. Prevent your child from sexting or taking inappropriate photos of them or others
The consequences of sharing inappropriate photos can be long-lasting and damaging.
Sexting, or the act of sending sexually explicit messages or images, can lead to cyberbullying, blackmail, and even legal repercussions.
Underage children who send explicit photos are technically engaging in child pornography and once the photo is sent they lose control over what happens to it.
It can be shared, distributed, and even misused without their knowledge or consent.
Canopy has a sexting prevention feature. If your child takes or receives an explicit photo, the app will alert you to the incident. This allows you to protect them without going through their phone regularly and compromising their privacy.
7. Turn off location sharing
Cyberbullying, at its core, seeks to inflict emotional distress. However, when a bully knows the exact location of your child, it adds another layer of intimidation.
The mere hint or threat of physical danger can amplify the mental anguish experienced by the victim. Imagine the fear a child might feel if a bully were to say, “I know where you are right now.”
Plus, you never know how far a cyberbully is willing to go and their digital torment could become physical.
To mitigate this risk, it’s crucial to turn off location sharing on your child’s devices and social media platforms. Dive into the settings of each app they use, especially those that have geotagging or “check-in” features, and disable location services.
On a broader scale, consider adjusting the location settings on their phone or tablet to limit which apps can access this data.
8. Teach your child not to engage with cyberbullies
One of the most effective strategies to disarm a cyberbully is surprisingly simple: don’t engage.
It can prevent cyberbullying from escalating or continuing.
That’s because cyberbullies, much like traditional bullies, thrive on reactions. They seek to provoke, to get a response, and to know that their hurtful words or actions have had an impact.
“I was cyberbullied when I was younger. I wish someone had told me then to not engage, don’t respond or feed them, don’t show them you care. That’s how they get bored and move on.”—Ben Johnson, Content Marketer at Eton Venture Services.
When your child responds, even defensively, it gives the bully exactly what they want: power and validation. It’s this power that fuels their actions, reinforcing their behavior and often escalating the situation.
Teach your child the importance of not feeding into this cycle. Instead of retaliating or defending themselves, they should take a step back, document the interaction for evidence, and report it to the necessary authorities or platform administrators.
And of course, encourage them to confide in you or another trusted adult about the situation, so they don’t feel isolated or alone.
9. Report cyberbullying when you or your child see it (even if not the victim)
Cyberbullying is a collective issue, and addressing it requires a community effort. While it’s essential to protect your child from online harassment, it’s equally crucial to take a stand against all forms of cyberbullying, even if your child isn’t the direct victim.
When you or your child come across instances of cyberbullying, take immediate action by reporting it. Most social media platforms and online communities have mechanisms in place to report abusive behavior.
By flagging these incidents, you alert the platform to take necessary actions, which could range from issuing warnings to suspending or banning the offender.
But why report if your child isn’t the one being targeted?
Because today’s bystander can be tomorrow’s victim. By taking a proactive stance, you contribute to creating a safer online environment for everyone.
10. Make sure your child isn’t cyberbullying
Kids can easily get swept up in the moment and go along with the crowd. Before they know it, they’re the cyberbully.
They might see forwarding on that picture as harmless teasing or feel pressured by others to poke fun but our kids need to understand that on the other side of the screen is a real person with real feelings.
What might seem like a light-hearted joke to one person could be deeply hurtful to another. Encourage them to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and to think before they post or comment.
If you discover that your child has been involved in cyberbullying, approach the situation with understanding and empathy.
Instead of reprimanding them immediately, seek to understand the context and their perspective. Use it as a teachable moment, emphasizing the importance of kindness, respect, and the lasting impact of their online actions.
11. Install a parental control app (Canopy)
A large part of cyberbullying prevention involves monitoring and limiting your child’s presence online, teaching them better habits, and preventing them from inappropriate activities like sexting.
With the right tool, this can be made easier. Canopy is a parental control app designed to protect your child from online dangers including cyberbullying without being invasive into their private life.
Sexting Prevention: Canopy’s advanced algorithms can detect and block inappropriate images in real time, ensuring that explicit content doesn’t reach or originate from your child’s device.
Content Filtering: The app filters out harmful content, ensuring your child only accesses age-appropriate material. This reduces the chances of them encountering cyberbullying or other harmful content.
Screen-Time Management: By setting limits on screen time, you can ensure your child takes regular breaks from the online world, reducing prolonged exposure to potential threats.
App and Website Blocking: You can block apps or websites notorious for cyberbullying incidents. By restricting access to these platforms, you directly reduce your child’s risk of encountering or participating in online harassment.
→ Protect your child from cyberbullies and other online threats with Canopy. It comes with a free 7 day trial and works across all devices. ←
How to Spot if Your Child is the Victim of Cyberbullying
Even with the strategies to prevent cyberbullying in place, your child may already or could one day become the target of a cyberbully attack.
So how do you spot if your child is a victim of a cyberbully?
Look for changes in their behavior. They might become withdrawn, lose interest in activities they once loved, or show signs of anxiety and depression.
Monitor their online activity for any signs of negative interactions, and keep an open line of communication, encouraging them to share their feelings and experiences.
By staying vigilant and approachable, you can identify the signs early and take the necessary steps to support and protect your child.
Learn More From Us
- How to Block Websites on iPhone & iPad
- How to Block Adult Websites on Your Phone
- What’s the Best Porn Blocker in 2023?