Written by Vicki Radford
Parents usually understand the idea of bullying in the playground, where one child repeatedly mentally intimidates or physically harasses another child, but cyberbullying can be a different story. If you were born before the 1990s, you’ve probably never experienced cyberbullying at school because nothing was online then.
Cyberbullying is different from bullying because the bully doesn’t need to be in the same location as the one being bullied. Often, cyberbullying is anonymous and can occur 24/7. Cyberbullying has a wider reach and can be more silent. Parents, friends and siblings may not find out that a child is being bullied if they are not looking in the right places. Kids don’t come home with a black eye or broken schoolbag rather cyberbullies attack a child’s emotions and reputation online.
How can parents help their children deal with cyberbullying? Rather than just burying your head in the sand or stopping technology from being used in your house become a knowledgeable parent. Find out what your kids are using, talk to other parents and search online for information about online communication. Become a parent who knows what is out there so that you can understand how to tackle cyberbullying before it occurs.
Four Online Gateways Where Cyberbullying Can Occur
SMS, Messaging and Emails
Most school kids have an email address. A high percentage of children also have a mobile phone. It’s no longer an option to just stop emails and texts. Children communicate with teachers and other students with this form of communication but it can be an easy access path for cyberbullies. Once someone has your mobile phone number or email address they have the potential to bombard you with messages, so always make sure your kids know not to give out email addresses and phone numbers easily. Also, encourage them to exit chat groups in places like WhatsApp where they feel uncomfortable or have not requested to join.
As a last resort, you can speak to your phone provider about changing your child’s mobile number. At Jeenee Mobile, we always want to help out in a situation like this and under these circumstances would allow a change of number free of charge.
Apps offer a convenient way to play games and connect with others but they have a high risk of being an avenue to bullying. They open the doorway to communicating with anonymous people who may turn out to be predators and bullies.
Apps such as Whisper allows kids to post secrets anonymously and also allows them to chat with other users in their area. Kids may think that because they have posted anonymously that they are protected but bullying still occurs. Nasty comments and reactions can damage a child’s self-esteem and if these comments are persistent they can cause high levels of stress.
As a parent, don’t just assume that if you don’t see the app on your child’s phone that they aren’t using it – there are many apps out there like ‘Poof’ that can make apps disappear from the homepage view.
As a parent, keep on top of the apps out there. Discover some of the most dangerous apps for 2019 at EducateEmpowerKids. New apps are being developed all the time. Video, dating and chatting apps are constantly morphing and changing names so parents should read up on new apps as well as speak with other parents to see what their kids are using.
OK, so I think you’ve got this one covered. You’re on Facebook and you are friends with your son or daughter so you think it’s all OK but beware! Firstly, kids are turning away from Facebook and using more ‘youth- popular’ social media like Snap Chat, Instagram and KIK. Find the huge range of social media apps out there at cyberbullying.org.
But why are they dangerous? Something like Snap Chat allows photos to be sent that quickly disappear when they are seen. Imagine how this could be a vicious tool for a bully to bombard a child with harassing or embarrassing pictures and how that could affect a young person. Even a popular social media site like Instagram allows people to post photos and videos then tag others in. If they are inappropriate pictures or have added derogatory copy, this can cause great stress to someone being bullied because so many people could see it in a matter of minutes.
Encourage your kids to stick to age restrictions and not sign up too young. Also, encourage your kids to let you know if inappropriate photos are posted. You can always report issues to the administration of the social media service. Remind your children to only be friends with people they know and trust and not just accept a friend request from a friend of a friend.
The internet allows us to play games with people not just in our neighbourhood but all around the world and with the good also comes the bad. Playing games with people you don’t know (not always kids) can lead to abusive messages, harassing play, players ganging up against other players, being bullied by ‘griefers’ who are people who play games simply to hurt and upset other players and in some cases people who hack into a player profile.
All this information can be extremely overwhelming as a parent. It’s such a temptation to just throw away the X-Box and say that your kids can never play a game online but this is not the reality for most families. Instead, encourage your kids to only play with people they know. When playing against strangers, simply don’t communicate with them, if possible. Discuss gaming with your kids and come up with some strategies to handle situations that might occur and if possible, don’t let your kids play online games behind closed where you can’t see what’s going on. The Kids Helpline is a great place to start to find more information.
As parents, we might feel we trust our kids to make all the right decisions when interacting in the online world but when you are online you are not alone, and kids will be open to attack from many areas. The best thing you can do as a parent is to educate yourself about what is out there and where your kids might be at threat from cyberbullying. Once you educate yourself, you can then have a better conversation with your kids so they know that you understand the digital world and you can come up with better strategies for stopping cyberbullies together.
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