What if it’s your child at fault?
It’s enough to set any parent’s heart racing. An urgent call from the school to say your child has been involved in cyberbullying. You want to know the name of the child who has dared to say anything hurtful about your son or daughter. Then horror as you discover your child is the bully.
It’s an excruciating scenario, and one that could make you feel you have failed as a parent. Yet with an increasing number of cyberbullying victims, there must be a growing number of culprits. There are steps that parents can take to help tackle cyberbullying by understanding the online worlds they inhabit and the technology they use.
Could my child be a cyberbully?
Children may be able to weave their way round apps and social media at Formula One speeds, yet not be mature enough to understand the consequences and implications of the content they post and share. Two thirds of secondary school pupils agreed it was easier to say something hurtful online than face to face.
No one likes the idea of their child as a cyberbully or a bystander to bullying. There is a possibility your child has bullied, or been a witness to it, without fully understanding how it has affected the victim.
Why is this an important time of year?
Online searches for the term cyberbullying spike at this time of the year, when children are back at school. The number of people who contact me for advice on the issue also peaks at this time. Many children will have started the term with their first smartphone, giving them digital independence and opening up the world of social media. Kids today network with a wider circle of friends that a child growing up in the 1980s could only have dreamed of.
How does cyberbullying compare with bullying face to face?
Bullying has changed. No longer does it stop at the school gates. Comments online stick around, they breed and they have an audience. Before, bullies could only get to you between the hours of 9am and 3pm, but cyberbullying has the potential to affect someone day and night and it offers a degree of anonymity to the perpetrator. By setting up a fake alias that bears no resemblance to your name, the cyberbully is free to say and do as he or she chooses.
What should I say to my child if I find out they are bullying someone online?
We’ve all done things we regret, it’s not so black and white to children. The important thing is that your child talks to someone if they’ve messed up. Try not to get angry or overreact – work out together how to remove inflammatory or offensive content and make amends with the people involved. Some children like to express their feelings in different ways – if your child finds it hard to sit down with you, let them know they can contact a confidential helpline (such asChildline) for advice.
What can I do to prevent my child from cyberbullying?
It’s vital to show an interest in their digital life and give your relationship with your child a regular health check. Talk about which apps and websites they use, and the kind of things they post on social media. Explain how important it is to think before they post and not say anything online that they wouldn’t say face to face.
How do I encourage them to use social media in a positive way?
Explain the nuance between sharing what they think might be funny, versus the potential to cause offence. Ask them how they would feel if they were on the receiving end. It is just as important to have manners online as it is at the dinner table or the school hall.
What could have turned my child in to a cyberbully?
Your child might be hearing or seeing things that affects their behaviour choices – on TV, social media or others at school. This change in behaviour could include prejudicial attitudes towards fellow pupils, such as racism, attitudes towards disability, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.
Who should I tell if my child has bullied someone online?
Talk to family and friends – some may have had a similar experience. Don’t be afraid to talk to their teacher to send clear messages to your child about the impact it could have on them and children they are targeting.
For additional information and advice on how to keep children safe online follow this link: https://www.internetmatters.org/