Invasive & Impacting Your Kids…Even If You Don’t Know About It…

Written by Annette Rose

First let’s understand what cyberbullying is – according to the ESafety Commissioner it is the use of technology to bully a person or group with the intent to hurt them socially, psychologically or even physically.

I know as the mother of 3 teenagers – 18, 15 and 13 that it is only too real. And helping my kids navigate has so far has not been easy.

The types of things your kids are experiencing on a daily basis are things like abusive texts or emails, hurtful messages, imitation of them online in a hurtful way, exclusion online – for example where a chat group is created that you aren’t a part of, a party invitation that is open to everyone except you and where the bully says ‘don’t tell this person about it’! Humiliation online and nasty gossip and chats.

And that’s before we event get started with hurtful platforms whose sole purpose is to hurt people like Sarahah.

And what’s making it worse is that there is simply no escape – in a recent discussion with a psychologist I was advised that past a certain age – to take technology away from children who are already anxious is not an option – because you are excluding them from the social circle and this is likely to exacerbate exclusion and anxiety.

It really does seem as though we are slaves to technology and as a parent – the question is how do you protect you kids from cyberbullying. How do you help them to navigate this invasion of privacy that follows them into their house and into their bedroom every day?

I believe that we must start with two key principles:

  1. Mindset; and
  2. Openness

From a mindset perspective encouraging our children to be strong individuals who believe in themselves and who have a strong self-belief that is built up daily by the important people in their lives will help your child to be more resilient in shaking off cyberbullying impacts.

Building them up with strong affirmations and also providing them with things to do regularly that get them away from their technology such as dance, team sports, family walks, walking the dog is also important.

And I am a believer in switching off the wifi at a set time every night – say 10 pm. This provides a parent enforced break overnight – I have heard from my own kids that often they have friends who are on their devices at 2 am – this is definitely not healthy or recommended.

And on openness? For me, this is all about being open to talking to your kids every single day. Creating opportunities to share and talk without judgement – will help your kids to open up to you and to ask for guidance. Try not to feel like you have to solve everything – listening and empathizing are recommended. Take them for coffee, breakfast, ice cream or out for lunch. Take the dogs for a walk together – encourage them to leave their phone at home.

As a parent, we also have to talk about the hard stuff and how we want our kids to respond in these situations – for example when dealing with requests from other kids to send naked selfies when confronted with receiving one of these – and I assure it is happening, my 15-year-old daughter receives regular requests from boys. How they should respond when they are the victim of cyberbullying – what to do and what not to do.

I highly recommend that you visit the website of the eSafety Commissioner found here as they have a full checklist with a link to Kids Helpline too – a fantastic organisation whose kids can reach out about anything – anytime.

What Not To Do

As a parent, I encourage you not to bury your head in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening to your kids. Review the tips I have provided and take action today to ensure that your children know you are there for them and what options are available to help them.

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