This week is Anti-Bullying Week so I’ve been hunting around on the internet (safely obvs) to find the best advice about how to prevent, and deal with bullying – particularly cyberbullying.
I also took part in an online discussion hosted by Kapersky about child online safety. Their study of 1,000 under 16s was very revealing, showing that most children look to their parents to keep them safe online, while most parents admit to being clueless about cyber protection – me included.
There is no doubt that the risk of cyberbullying is increasing as well as being difficult to report – so no one really knows the extent of the problem. It’s typically hard to spot as it can happen any time. There are some tell-tale signs to look out for in your child’s behaviour:
- Being upset or withdrawn after using the internet or their mobile phone
- Being unwilling to talk or being secretive about their online activities or phone use
- Unusual patterns of behaviour online – much more or much less time than usual on social media or gaming
- Not wanting to take part in activities they enjoyed previously, like meeting up with friends.
The best way to stop online bullying is through prevention.
Here are some tips which I’ve picked up from various sources, most of which are more appropriate for younger children, mainly because that’s my personal focus. The teenage years are a whole different ball game!
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- Make screen time a social activity, encourage your child to play on their tablet in the same room as you, so you can see where on the internet your child is playing. Allowing kids to take their screens into their bedrooms can encourage secretive behaviour.
- Encourage children to talk to you about what they’re doing online by asking them questions as they play. This is a good way to develop a trusting relationship with your child about what they are doing online and allows a way for you to introduce the notion of online safety without being preachy.
- Explain to your child that just as we don’t talk to strangers in the street, so we shouldn’t talk to strangers online.
- Keep your online passwords to yourself so that your kids can’t download inappropriate games or change your privacy settings.
- Set boundaries from the start. Explain to your child what they are allowed to do online and what they should do if they find inappropriate content (ie disconnect). Limit screen time by turning off the wifi or providing another incentive to stop after an agreed time. If that agreement is broken restrict access for a period of time.
- Social networks have a minimum age restriction for a reason, usually 13 years old. Follow the guidelines which are in place for your children’s safety. If your child is already on social networks, use the privacy settings on offer and turn off locations on apps like Facebook and Instagram. Use Google’s safety settings.
- Be careful what pictures or videos you upload of your children and ask them to exercise the same caution. Once a picture is shared online it cannot be taken back.
- Explain to your child that they should only add people they know and trust to friends/followers lists online. If talking to strangers they should keep their personal information safe and location hidden.
Bullying should always be taken seriously. If you think your child is being bullied, the following advice may help:
Firstly don’t panic. Explain that your child is not to blame for the bullying and that you will sort it out together.
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- Try to establish the facts and keep a diary of events as evidence. Save copies of images or texts if the bullying is happening online. Kids should take screenshots of any aggressive online behaviour which is easy to do on the phone, and then disconnect.
- Talk to your child about what he wants. Does he want you to get involved, tell the teacher or does he want to try to sort this out on his own? Do not encourage retaliation as this is just a viscous circle.
- You could role play non-violent ways to respond to the bullies, such as “I don’t like it when you…”
- Show them how to block or unfriend people and report them to the service in use. Many services take bullying seriously and will either warn the individual or eliminate his or her account.
- Support for children who are bullied is available within schools, through Childline on 0800 1111, and the Anti-Bullying Alliance – all whom help build confidence and a sense of emotional safety. Teachers are allowed by law to search for and delete inappropriate images from phones and devices. They are also able to discipline and investigate cases of bullying outside of the school gates.
- Think U Know from CEOP (part of the National Crime Agency) is also a great resource for kids, parents, teachers and carers to find out more about protecting yourselves online.
Let me know if you have any other good suggestions or resources. Stay safe.