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Ask Dr. Lowenstein: How can I protect my child from cyberbullying?

The internet allows children and teens to connect, learn and play in amazing ways. When school buildings closed last year to minimize the spread of COVID-19, the internet also made it possible for many kids to attend classes online with their own teachers and classmates. But despite the many advantages, the internet still poses a host of challenges for parents trying to protect their kids from inappropriate content. Setting control locks and monitoring internet use is a good start, but what can parents do about cyberbullying?

Start with prevention

Know the extent of your child’s internet usage and take an interest in his or her online activities. Setting healthy boundaries will not only protect your kids from too much screen time. It will also help them know when and how to remove themselves from harmful online communication. It’s very important to talk to them regularly about the type of online behavior they should practice and what they should expect from others. Encourage them to share any questions or problems with you.

How to respond

In the event that your child does come to you because of cyberbullying, or you notice it yourself, respond promptly but calmly. Make time and space for you and your child to discuss the situation privately and without distractions. Then work together towards a solution. This way, your child will understand how to deal with the immediate problem and he or she will be better prepared to avoid or address future situations.

What else you can do

Thanks to computers, smartphones and tablets, the internet is almost always within a child’s reach. As kids return to school, even in-person, they may still be spending more time online because of quarantines and distance learning. Talk with teachers and guidance counselors for insight on bullying at school, how it is being addressed and how you can help at home. Above all, make sure your kids know they are loved and valued. While bullies are the individuals with a problem, their victims are too often left to struggle with depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. 

Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.