Tips on Handling Cyberbullying 

A photo of two people next to a dog.
Counselors at Fallen Timbers Middle School with the Anthony Wayne School District Jenny Minni (left) and Stephanie Huntley (right) with the school facility dog Astro.

Statistics show that 15% of teens experience cyberbullying and nearly that many have engaged in bullying others online. While cyberbullying continues to be an issue, two counselors from a local middle school are seeing progress. Jenny Minni and Stephanie Huntley, counselors at Fallen Timbers Middle School in the Anthony Wayne School District, are not seeing cyberbullying as much as they did 10 years ago. They attribute the decline  to parents being savvier about the downsides of access to phones and social media. 

Minni and Huntley have observed that not every child has a phone (which was more likely the case 10 years ago) and fit those that  do have a phone, more parents are not allowing them to be on social media. The counselors see this as a positive trend. While they don’t have a set age that they recommend for kids to get a phone (because every kid is different and families have different values), they want parents to know that  it’s okay to wait. “Even eighth grade is a pretty young age (to have access to social media) … waiting gives them a few more years to get to know themselves and be a kid,” Huntley said. 

Prevention and early intervention are key

More important than the age that kids get phones, according to Minni and Huntley, is setting clear boundaries before handing them that first phone. Being proactive and intervening early and often can help kids avoid more extreme cyberbullying situations. 

Persistent cyberbullying can have serious harmful effects such as creating issues with mood, energy, sleep and appetite. Students can struggle to concentrate or may not want to attend school if they are facing their online bully in the classroom. 

RELATED: Mindfulness in Parenting and Teaching 

Keeping an open dialogue and talking specifically about how to spot cyberbullying can help kids feel more comfortable talking to their parents when issues come up. Cyberbullying includes name-calling, spreading rumors, outing, harassing, revealing private information or pictures and threatening. Cyberbullying isn’t limited to social media as bullying can occur through texts and any messaging apps, including those on gaming platforms. Minni said, parents need to “be the first one to be there to protect (their child) and to help them when they make a mistake.”

Recommended guidelines for online safety:

  • Passwords shared with parents. Enabling parents to intervene if needed. 
  • No phones at bedtime.  Teens need time to rest and sleep away from their devices.  
  • Doors remain open when they are on their screens, so parents can monitor their use. 
  • Ensuring there is a good balance between in-person and online interaction. They need to spend time with friends in person. 
  • Parents model positive communication online and prioritizing in-person interactions, especially when spending time with their children and teens. 

Minni emphasizes that It’s okay for kids not to have online privacy in the middle school years as they are still learning and may make mistakes.  Parents “need to get nosy and look at their (child’s) phone.. Kids need to know that you’re looking at their phones and it actually helps relieve stress for them.”

Preventing bullying behavior

Teaching children the following acronym can give them guidance for what’s okay to post, message and text. 

THINK… is it?






Guidance for handling cyberbullying

When there is an incident of cyberbullying, as adults it’s important to remember that kids are going to make mistakes as they are learning. Huntley encourages parents to “lead with love and patience.” Teaching kids what is appropriate and safe and not jumping to the worst conclusion can help facilitate a learning experience for a child involved in saying hurtful things online or being on the receiving end.  

Help a younger child problem solve, or teens may just need your support as they handle it on their own.

  • Save evidence: Take screenshots of the cyberbullying incidents as a record. 
  • Don’t escalate the issue, don’t respond to bullying. 
  • Consider increasing privacy settings and blocking persistent cyberbullying
  • Report to the app or website directly about removing bullying-related posts, especially if they reveal private or embarrassing information. 
  • If bullying occurs at school or on a school-owned device, or if the bullying is affecting a child’s school performance, it may be appropriate to speak with your child’s school counselor or principal.

It’s okay to pull back on social media use or take a break, advises Minni. Rather than taking phones or social media away as a punishment, it can be a conversation: “You seem pretty stressed, let’s take a break and see if there is a change.”