Whether it’s a media beat up or, as the morning news will have us believe we really are living through a bullying epidemic, we just can’t deny that the issue of bullying is real. It has evolved over time and is now impacting children in ways never seen before.
It’s in our best interest to be well aware and involved in the online life of our children to ensure that we are taking all steps possible to keep Cyber Bullies out of our child’s lives. Technology is often made the scapegoat for the rise in Cyber Bullying, we know that bullying is more about values and behaviour than it is about choice of weapon. We need to give our children the support and tools to behave respectfully online and protect themselves from potential risks.
Teach good values
Empathy, respect and resilience are key to a positive online environment. Model these values and find examples in day-to-day life, in stories, tv programs, movies and people that they know. Tell some stories of your own. Highlight and discuss what these values look like in action. Find examples of your children showing behaviours that are inline with these values. Give them positive feedback on what they did and how they did it.
Talk about Cyber Bullying
Ask them if they know anyone who has been cyber bullied, or is a cyber bully. Discuss various possible scenarios and solutions. And most importantly, let them know that the same rules apply to online bullying as they do for bullying in say, a schoolyard. Don’t be a bystander. If they see or hear of anyone who is being bullied online, they need to tell a trusted adult and encourage their friend to get help. It’s also important for them to show a position of support if they feel safe to do so, remind them that their one supportive comment could make all the difference to a victim in distress.
Teach them how to respond
We need to give our children the tools to manage the situation. Avoid escalating the situation by retaliating as this can further provoke the bully; online bullies hope to get a reaction. So, the first step is to ignore. Teach children how to block, report and delete. Most social media platforms have rules that will ban cyberbullying and will have tools that will allow you to ask for something to be removed, sometimes called the report button. If this is not done within 48 hours you can then take your complaint to Esafety and they will follow this up with the social media platform. They can also help your child find someone to talk to and give advice and strategies. Save the evidence by taking a screen shot, while this can be overwhelming and intrusive, it is important. If the bullying is taking place via email and is continuous it may be necessary to change email addresses. If the bullying still continues, you may consider contacting your local police to help manage the situation.
Understand how they are using the internet
It’s no longer acceptable to say that we can’t keep up and children have surpassed us where technology is concerned. Some social media sites are safer than others. Get to know them, download them yourself and have a good browse, talk to your children about what they use and the advantages and disadvantages. Some social media apps have guides for parents and if they don’t it’s not hard to find them online.
Keep them connected
If children raise an online issue with you, it’s important not to take them offline. This is their world. Staying connected with supportive peers is important to recovery and building resilience. Banning them from their devices is like isolating them from friends, it will feel like a punishment and therefore will discourage them from coming to you with a problem the next time something occurs.
Have a family agreement about internet use at home
This will open the lines of communication and give guidelines to enable a conversation that is purely centred around online safety, and as a result a common understanding of acceptable behaviour.
Keep devices out of the bedroom
While this might seem like a no brainer to some, if this family rule is not put into place when children are first introduced to devices this can be quite a challenge, especially with teenage children who are in need of more privacy as they get older, and habits that are well engrained. Things happen online late at night and when a notification goes off, as adults we know all too well how difficult it is to resist the temptation to check it. Model this behaviour for your children, the benefits will far outweigh the inconvenience. It might be a tough adjustment, but well worth it.
Whilst we can never completely control our what happens online or what our children are privy too, putting these steps in place can help you feel comfortable that your children know what to do when it comes to cyber bullying and give you peace of mind that you have done what you can do make them aware, educated and feel safe and supported should issues arise.