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Cyberbullying: Teaching children to be resilient

By Michael Hawton 3 min read
Monday, July 09, 2018

Although no two children or situation are the same, there are some surefire ways you can help your child rise above the poor behaviour of others, be it in real life or online. 

Teach them to "self-talk" 

It is important to let them know that only people close to them matter and should impact their feelings and actions. Someone once told me that in life, many people will hold views about you and some of those views will be ill-founded. Only worry about what your family and close friends think about you—the others do not know who you really are and their views are less important.

Report the bullies

The more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle an authority has (such as a school leader, coach, parents or family), the more they can see a pattern, which they can use in holding a tough conversation with a bully. So encourage your children to speak up and open the discussion up about any inappropriate behaviour they see or engage in.


Whether it is walking away or just stopping the use of their device for a while, these strategies can give your child time to work out what to do. It’s tempting to go into a tizz when you first feel insulted by someone, but part of becoming more mature is knowing when and how to give a proportional response. This includes knowing when to stop worrying about things that have no easy solution and realising that you can’t control other people, but you can control what you do and how you respond

Sleep well

Sleep plays a major role in how well-balanced our emotions are. The younger you are, the more your body needs sleep for growth and emotional stability. We’ve all been a little guilty of being overly emotional and irritated from lack of sleep. Children and teenagers are no different and suffer the same effects. Therefore, it is important children sleep for a minimum of 10–12 hours per night. Getting enough sleep makes us all more resilient for life’s situations and more capable of making the right decisions in the face of bullying.

Telling the difference

Teach them not to confuse people’s "right" to complain or disagree as abuse or as an affront; they’re not the same thing as bullying. Ask your child to tell you what happened and give them constructive feedback. For example, someone looking at you the wrong way is not bullying. It may be unpleasant but it’s not bad. While comments and disagreements can feel hurtful and challenging, it is often the way we manage these that can ease or escalate a situation. Of course, ongoing and deliberate attack is bullying and needs to be spoken up about.

Encourage your child to build an army of allies

It can be intimidating for children to step in when they see bullying occur but, your child needs to understand that being a bystander is being complicit to bullying. Seeing it happen and doing nothing is just as detrimental as being the one to throw the harsh word (or fist). Being part of a bigger network who refuse to allow bullying to occur is empowering. Likewise, being with your group makes it less likely for bullying to occur.

Embrace social media positively

There is always an underlying concern when it comes to children on social media as it can be harder to monitor and regulate. And of concern is that the age of children using social media is dropping drastically, largely with little monitoring by parents. Social media doesn’t have to be off-limits or as scary as parents think. Education is key here: teach your children how to block, mute and report trolls and hate speech. Digital abstinence is unrealistic in our society, especially the older your child gets, as you don’t want them to alienate themselves either. Therefore, managing a supportive and welcoming friendship so allies are central is key to using social media to be . . . social!

On a concluding note, and as a reflective notion for all of us parents, we encourage our children to learn to defend themselves physically with lessons such as Karate or Taekwondo. Shouldn’t we also be helping them to defend themselves psychologically?

Growing up is all about finding our way and place in society, and many of our life skills are attained through our school years. This may not necessarily be in the classroom but at recess and before and after school. Equipping our child with social tools and the confidence to use them can make all the difference, just as the lack of these can.


Michael Hawton is a registered psychologist, trained teacher, author, international speaker, media commentator and father of two. He is one of Australia’s foremost experts in managing difficult behaviour.