I’m scared to tell my parents I’m being cyberbullied. What should I do?
Hi, and thank you so much for this incredibly important question. First and foremost, I want to start by saying how sorry I am that you’re experiencing cyberbullying. Online harassment – no matter its form – is always deeply painful and difficult to deal with. With that said, I hope you know that your cyberbullies’ conduct says much more about them than it does about you, and that you are worthy, loved, and important. I also want to applaud you for being so brave in sharing your experience and raising this question for our community.
I completely understand that you’re afraid to tell your parents you’re being cyberbullied – and trust me, you’re not alone in that. Research finds that just 10% of victims choose to report their harassment to an adult, including a parent. When I speak with youth (as I have around the world), I hear lots of reasons they don’t speak up: they feel ashamed, they’re worried they’ll get in trouble – maybe something they did prompted the cyberbullying, or, as I depicted in this week’s Ask Trish video, they’re concerned that a parent or guardian’s reaction will just make the bullying worse. I get it – I really do. But even so, I still strongly recommend that you do tell a parent about what you’re experiencing. In this post, I’ll briefly dive into 1) why and 2) some tips for how to have this conversation with a parent. Let’s get into it:
Why, in spite of your concerns – which may be legitimate – should you tell a parent about the cyberbullying you’re experiencing? A number of reasons, first and foremost of which is, your parents can help you get help, help that you deserve. So many cyberbullied youth think that wanting “help” is shameful, but the truth is that cyberbullying is not a rite of passage, not something that you should have to go through, and certainly not something you should have to deal with on your own. Particularly if the cyberbullying is affecting your physical or mental wellbeing, a parent can help you seek care or find resources that you need. A parent can also intervene to ensure that the cyberbullying stops, which is the best outcome. People that claim that “running to a parent for help” is “lame” are advancing the narrative that cyberbullying is “not a big deal” – and they’re wrong. Ignore them, and get the help you need.
Another good reason to reach out to your parents is that they can help ensure that the situation doesn’t escalate. Maybe at the present moment, the harassment feels “manageable,” or it’s contained enough that only some people know about it – and you think telling your parents will mean everyone will know about it! That’s possible…but you know what else is possible? The cyberbullying gets worse – completely unmanageable, difficult, and draining – and much more visible, in a way that’s damaging to you. If you tell your parents early, they can help make sure that that doesn’t happen, whether again by intervening, finding you resources, etc. Contrary to what a lot of young people think, there’s no “threshold” cyberbullying needs to meet for it to be parent-worthy. (And trust me, I’m sure your parents agree with that.)
So, how exactly do you tell your parents? Well, there’s no one way or specific method about it, but I do have some dos and don’ts to ensure that the conversation goes the way you want it to. For instance, don’t tell your parent(s)/guardian(s) over the phone (the way I depicted it in this week’s TikTok). They’re likely to have questions, and it can be hard to effectively communicate and share how you’re feeling over text. (Not to mention that long pauses in between texts is only likely to increase their anxiety!) Instead, if possible, do tell your parent(s)/guardian(s) in-person, ideally together and in the same room. This will make things much, much more smooth. In addition, do be prepared to share the 5Ws: who (who’s been targeting you), what (what they’ve been doing), when (how long it’s been happening), where (on what social media platforms), and why (why they’re targeting you). Knowing that it’s coming can make you feel a little less cornered or anxious when your parents do start asking questions. Remember, even if they seem mad, or on the verge of explosion, honestly answering their questions is the best way to keep the conversation on track. And on that note, do share the resolution or help that you want. Sometimes, parents will (in my opinion, incorrectly) jump to the resolution they think is right without asking their children what they need and want. Clearly state why you told your parents and the help you really need. And as you do, keep an open mind as to your parents’ thoughts. For instance, you may not want to confront the cyberbully or make the harassment go away, but your parents may rightly note that the harassment is damaging and needs to stop.
I hope you found this post a helpful guide to why and how to talk to a parent about any online harassment you’re experiencing. Remember, it’s the best thing to do for yourself and doesn’t have to be as bad as it might seem. Whether you now have other parent-related questions (bring them on!) and want to keep the conversation going or you’re ready to pivot to another issue on your mind, don’t hesitate to share any Internet-related questions, thoughts, or perspectives here. Your question just might be featured in an upcoming TikTok/blog post! Don’t forget – not only will you get some helpful advice, you’ll also help our Ask Trish community: other readers, just like you, are thinking about the same things. Indeed, by sharing a question, you might just inspire them to ask a question too! So take 1 minute, and fill out the form. As always, I can’t wait to hear from you.