No parent wants to think about their child being the target of negative attention on social media. Unfortunately, the ubiquity of social media in our lives means it’s becoming more and more common for children and teenagers to be cyberbullied. As a parent, it’s essential to equip your child with the tools they need to deal with negative comments on social media.
Here are 5 ways you can help your child handle negative comments on social media:
1. Talk about it ahead of time. Talk to your child about negative comments before they even encounter them. That way, they’ll be prepared mentally and emotionally to deal with them if they occur. Talk about what kinds of comments might be considered negative, why someone might say them, and how your child can respond. Let them ask questions, and have a frank conversation with them about social media and its use.
2. Keep perspective. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the drama of social media, particularly for children and teens, but it’s important to keep it in perspective. Remind your child that not everything that happens online is a reflection of their offline reality. Oftentimes, people say things online that they would never say in person—so it’s best not to take them too seriously.
3. Ignore or block the person who left the comment. One of the best ways to deal with a negative comment is to simply ignore it, or block the person who left it. This takes away their power and prevents them from continuing to bully your child. If ignoring or blocking the person isn’t possible, then your child can try responding calmly and politely—this often diffuses the situation quickly. Encourage them to reply only after a cooling-off period to avoid fanning the flames with heightened emotions.
4. Seek help from a trusted adult if necessary. Let your child know that if they are being targeted by cyberbullies, or are struggling to cope with negative comments, they shouldn’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted adult for help. Go through their list of trusted adults; they could include a teacher, school counselor, family member, or family friend. It’s important that your child knows they have a support system that they can rely on when things get tough online.
5. Take a break from social media if necessary. Finally, if your child is feeling overwhelmed by negative comments on social media, sometimes the best solution is simply to take a break from it—even if it’s just for a day or two. This will give them time to recharge and refocus their attention on other positive aspects of their life. A break also helps them gain perspective; it can be hard to see the forest for the trees when they’re in the thick of it.
It’s painful to think about your child being targeted by cyberbullies, but unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more common in today’s world. As a parent, you can take a proactive approach, and equip your child with the tools they need to deal with negative comments should they encounter them. By talking about it ahead of time, keeping perspective, ignoring or blocking the bully, seeking help from a trusted adult if necessary, and taking a break from social media if needed, you can help your child navigate this difficult landscape successfully.