Parents sometimes look to Martial Arts, rather than other activities such as dance or gymnastics, because of the “self-defense” component most martial arts Dojos advertise. I’ve gotten more than a few telephone calls about martial arts lessons after parents got a call from the school about a problem.

Unfortunately, the most common bully problem kids today may confront is in cyber-space rather than face-to-face. More than 80% of people report they’ve seen or been aware of online bullying and some experts claim the instances of online bullying have likely doubled since 2007. Overall, probably a third of people have been bullied online and about 20% of those would say it’s happened in the last 20 days.

It could be that most people don’t know how to confront the problem of bullies online, as it seems easier to get away with than bullying in person, but I thought we should at least try to unpack the problem.

What to do if you’re being bullied online:

  1. Stay calm

First, take a deep breath, and aim long. Emotions, like anger, are triggers for further abuse. By staying calm, you can use your head.

  • Record the evidence

Rather than reacting, take a screenshot of the content, or otherwise record it right away.

  • Block the bully

Shut them down at the start. No need feeling bad blocking someone; you can prevent bullies from contacting you if you like. Many social media platforms, such as Instagram, are acknowledging this practice and making it easier to restrict unwanted messages and comments.

  • Report the bully

Social media platforms like Instagram are also using AI (artificial intelligence) to try to identify bullies because not enough people report bully behavior. If you feel bullied, take action and report it.

  • Confide in someone

If you’re torn about reporting, please tell someone. Seek out the advice of someone you trust.

  • Look to the experts

Sometimes it can be hard to talk to mom and dad, but parents are like first responders when it comes to online threats. Teachers, coaches and school counselors are other good resources. One might even wish to seek legal advice (get a lawyer) when dealing with certain types of cyber-threats.

I don’t want to downplay the importance of deescalating violence if confronted by a bully firsthand and do we have an excellent, age appropriate “bully-proof” curriculum, but I wanted to make sure we were comparing apples to apples. If you’re confronted by a bully online, fall back on my steps above. Also, here is a link to Instagram’s press release on their new anti-bullying campaign.

Parents may choose to intervene on their child’s behalf.  There are several steps parents can take to monitor their child online to protect them from online threats.  I’d be happy to discuss those options with parents. However, as a teacher, the subject I’m asked to comment on is what should one do? These six steps above is my immediate advice – Stay calm, record the evidence, block ‘em, tell someone, and stay educated on the subject.