While remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic lowered reported instances of bullying, parents fear that for some students, going back to school will mean the return of bullying.
“Bullying is something we worried about, even when our children were very young,” said Charles, a father of three in Alabaster, Alabama.
As we consider National Bullying Prevention Month in October, it is clear that technology’s ever-greater presence in children’s lives has given bullying a new outlet. With just a click, cyberbullies can taunt, harass, and threaten relentlessly, even reaching into the home via cell phone or computer. As a result, victims report feeling hopeless, isolated, and even suicidal.
What can parents do to protect their kids? Taking an interest in their children’s online world can make a difference, says many authorities on the matter.
This interest does not necessarily require parents to become tech experts. Instead, the website stopbullying.gov, a government website in the United States, suggests that parents watch for subtle clues that something is wrong, such as their child becoming withdrawn, hiding their screen when others are nearby, or reacting emotionally to what’s happening on their device.
Talking with kids openly—and often—helps too. “The more you talk to your children about bullying, the more comfortable they will be telling you if they see or experience it,” UNICEF says in its online tips for parents.
For Charles and his wife, that meant encouraging their children to freely express themselves. “We always wanted to know what was on their minds, especially when their thoughts differed from ours. When they reached those difficult teenage years, those previously established channels were critical.”
Larry, a father of two from Odenville, Alabama, takes a similar approach. “As parents, we feel it is important for us to have constant communication with our children.”
He explained, “One way we’ve done this is by having discussions with our daughter before and after school each day. We wanted to talk with her while things were fresh on her mind.”
Beyond talking with, listening to, and observing their kids, parents shouldn’t be afraid to make and enforce rules for online activities, experts say.
When Charles’ son was bullied, the family took an additional step. “After doing all we could to resolve the matter, we encouraged our son to follow the Bible’s advice to pursue peace over being right,” he said.
“After praying about the matter, our son approached the bully and said, ‘If there was ever anything that I did to hurt you or cause you pain, I’m sorry.’ To his surprise, the bully smiled, and apologized. There were no more issues after that.”
Both families also cited the tips and reminders they’ve considered together with their kids from free resources available on jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Larry especially recommended two of the site’s short videos, Beat a Bully Without Using Your Fists, and Act Wisely When Bullied.
“As parents, we are truly happy that we decided to use jw.org. Our daughter was able to overcome this situation and is now better equipped to handle this in the future.”