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Advice for parents and carers on cyber-bullying

"This advice is for parents and carers about cyber-bullying. It provides advice and information about how they can protect their child from cyber-bullying and how to tackle it if it happens." 

supporting bullied children 150x150

supporting bullied children 150x150

Overview

Cyber-bullying is bullying that takes place using technology. Whether on social media sites, through a mobile phone, or gaming sites, the effects can be devastating for the young person involved. There are ways to help prevent a child from being cyberbullied and to help them cope and stop the bullying if it does happen.

Cyber Bullying

Parents and carers need to be aware that most children have been involved in cyberbullying in some way, either as a victim, perpetrator, or bystander. By its very nature, cyberbullying tends to involve a number of online bystanders and can quickly spiral out of control. Children and young people who bully others online do not need to be physically stronger and their methods can often be hidden and subtle.

Cyberbullying can also involve adults; even though technology has provided wonderful opportunities for both teaching and learning, it has led to some teachers becoming the victims of internet messaging that undermines or ridicules them. It is important that parents make clear that this is not acceptable behaviour and lead by example. What was once a conversation at the school gate between small groups of parents and carers can now become a conversation with perhaps hundreds of “friends” on social networking sites, permanent, with a large audience, and easily shared. Whilst parents and carers have the right to be critical of decisions made by schools, or even individual staff members, they should raise concerns in an appropriate way and not become abusive, or libellous. Open conversations on social networking sites are not private and can easily be reported to school staff, even if it was not the intention to share their views directly.

Social Networking

Young people routinely access social media and much of their social lives are online. This can create a false sense of security; for example chatting online feels different from chatting face to face. It can be easier to say and reveal things that wouldn’t be said face to face; be cruel, aggressive or flirtatious. It is important for young people to remember that there are offline consequences to online behaviour. 

Comments intended to be funny can often be misinterpreted online whereas if said face to face they could be acceptable as facial expressions, body language or tone of voice. This is not the case online. We also know that increasingly younger children are signing up to social network sites and may not have the maturity to handle their online identity in a safe and responsible way.

Social networking can increase existing social pressures and reinforce a sense of isolation; for instance by people purposefully not liking a young person’s status update or photo so they seem unpopular, or by excluding them from group chats. Online bullying often involves a large audience and this increases the pressure.

Parents and carers need to understand the way young people communicate with others, and the potential risks. Asking their child simply not to use technology is not a realistic way to prevent or react to cyber-bullying. Parents and carers have a challenging job. They need to know what their children are doing online and also help them to do it in a safe way. With technology changing on a day-to-day basis, the best way to stay informed is for parents to be involved.

Set boundaries

A good way to supervise children’s internet access and set boundaries about what they can and cannot do online is to create an agreement with them. If a child breaks the rules, restrict internet access for an agreed period of time. Ensure you use the privacy settings, parental controls and built in internet safety features provided by the major internet service providers.

Being involved and talking to your child

Social Networks have a minimum age restriction, usually age thirteen. Parents should talk to their children about the reasons behind the age restriction as they are there for a reason. Accessing such sites too early can expose children to unnecessary bullying.

It is also very important to ensure children and young people feel comfortable about telling their parents things that have happened online. Talking to their children will help parents to understand the ways in which they are using the internet, social media and their mobile phone. Talking to children about responsible behaviour is important as sometimes children who are victims of cyberbullying may also be involved in cyberbullying others. Ensure they know they can go and talk to an adult or parent if they are being bullied and need support. How parents talk to their children will depend on their age.

Advice for Children

The following are some things that parents may wish to consider teaching their children about using the internet safely:

  • Make sure you use the privacy settings.
  • Always respect others – be careful what you say online.
  • Be careful what pictures or videos you upload. Once a picture is shared online it cannot be taken back.
  • Only add people you know and trust to friends/followers lists online. When talking to strangers, keep your personal information safe and location hidden.
  • Treat your password like your toothbrush – keep it to yourself and change it regularly.
  • Block the bully – learn how to block or report someone who is behaving badly.
  • Do not retaliate or reply to offending e-mails, text messages or online conversations.
  • Save the evidence. Always keep a copy of offending e-mails, text messages or a screen grab of online conversations and pass to a parent, a carer or a teacher.
  • Make sure you tell an adult you trust, for example, a parent, a carer, a teacher, or the anti-bullying co-ordinator or call a helpline like Childline on 08001111 in confidence.
  • Most social media services and other sites have a button you can click on to report bullying. Doing this can prevent a bully from targeting you and others in the future. Many services take bullying seriously and will either warn the individual or eliminate his or her account.
  • While you are on your mobile phone make sure you also pay attention to your surroundings.

Possible signs of cyber-bullying

It is not always easy to spot the signs of cyberbullying as it can happen all the time, which is a feature that makes it different from other forms of bullying. Be alert to a change in your child’s behaviour, for example:

  • Being upset after using the internet or their mobile phone;
  • Unwilling to talk or secretive about their online activities and mobile phone use.
  • Spending much more or much less time texting, gaming or using social media.
  • Many new phone numbers, texts or e-mail addresses show up on their mobile phone, laptop or tablet.
  • After texting or being online they may seem withdrawn, upset or outraged.
  • Not wanting to go to school and/or avoiding meeting friends and school mates.
  • Avoiding formerly enjoyable social situations.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Low self-esteem.

What to do if you suspect a child is being cyber-bullied

If you suspect a child or young person is being harassed or bullied either over the internet or via mobile phone, ask them to give you details. If your child tells you that someone is bothering them online, take it seriously. Offer practical as well as emotional support. Print out the evidence for future reference. Talk to a teacher at your child’s school if other pupils at the schools are involved.  

What is cyber-bullying?

Cyber-bullying means using computers, mobile phones and other technology to hurt, scare or embarrass other people. Cyber-bullying gets people in serious trouble at school and also with the law. In a growing number of places, certain forms of cyber-bullying are illegal. Being mean and unkind is being mean and unkind, no matter how you do it. Don’t ask if it’s funny. Ask if it will make someone unhappy. We all know that we should never post anything on the internet or send something electronically that you don’t want the whole world to see. Once you press <send> the damage is done. “Bullying is bullying, whether in cyberspace or in person.” According to an article found at Kid Power

Student advice, if you feel that you are being bullied

Show the message to someone at home. If you get an upsetting message or see something that is attacking you – do not reply, do not delete. Save the message, print it if you can and get help from an adult you trust. If one adult does not help you, keep asking until you get the help you need.

Cyber Bullying1

Information for parents and carers

Be clear about the rules for using technology. It is impossible to monitor 24/7. However it is important that your children know that you will monitor their use of technology and what your expectations are. Make sure that your children know that you have the right to be emotionally and physically safe on-line as well as everyone else. We also expect you to act safely and respectfully towards others in everything you say or do, including through use of technology. If you have a problem, we want to know. Stay aware of and involved with what your child is doing.

Facebook / Twitter

The use of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family. Unfortunately, it is also an easy way to target other young people with undesirable and/or unkind messages which can be very unpleasant and hard to deal with. Be careful about the use of personal information unless this is within a secure system of people who know each other, such as a school, do not allow your children to post personal information or photos in an on-line friend’s community, chat group, or anywhere else. When you ask young people how many ‘cyber friends’ they have, they will often reply ‘hundreds’, most of whom they have no personal knowledge of.

Advice for parents and carers

Give consequences if your is caught  cyber-bullying. If your child becomes involved in cyber-bullying, have the child apologise and make amends. Try to find out how it all started and then help them to understand how to make safer choices instead. Often, loss of the privilege to use the technology involved for a specific period of time is the most appropriate consequence. In addition, have them do something active such as write a letter of apology. Provide support if a child is cyber-bullied. The anonymous nature and widespread distribution of cyber-bullying can be devastating. If your child is facing cyber-bullying, give the child emotional support by saying, “I am so sorry this is happening to you and so proud of you for having the courage to tell me. This is not your fault and we are going to do what we can to make it stop.”

Parents can ask for help by:

  • Contacting the school
  • Speaking with your Internet provider or mobile phone company
  • Reporting the cyber-bullying to the social media website, and contact the police if necessary

Parents and children

Young people need to feel empowered to stand up to cyber-bullies. One way to speak up can be to explain that they should not feel intimidated and cyber-bullying is wrong. A common negative response is that ‘everyone is doing it and it is funny’. An effective response might be to say well even though the other person is not a friend it is never funny or acceptable to embarrass and humiliate people. Besides, it is illegal. If you want to learn more about cyber bullying Kidpower website is very useful. Visit kidpower.org for their extensive free on-line library, affordable publications including safety comics, workshops, and consultation services.

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