Cyberbullying 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 any young person involved.
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:
Comments intended to be funny can often be misinterpreted online
Increasingly younger children are signing up to social network sites
Social networking can increase existing social pressures and reinforce a sense of isolation
Online bullying often involves a large audience and this increases these pressures
Possible signs of cyberbullying:
It is not always easy to spot the signs of cyberbullying - be alert to a change in your child’s behaviour:
Being upset, withdrawn or angry after using the internet or their mobile phone
Unwilling to talk or being secretive about their online activities and mobile phone use
Spending much more or much less time texting, gaming or using social media
Not wanting to go to school and/or avoiding meeting friends
Change in character, difficulty sleeping & low self-esteem
Parents and carers need to understand the way young people communicate with others, and the potential risks. Asking your child simply not to use technology is not a realistic way to prevent or react to cyberbullying. There are ways to help prevent a child from being cyber bullied and to help them cope and stop the bullying if it does happen:
Supervise your children’s internet access and set boundaries about what they can and cannot do online
Ensure you use the privacy settings, parental controls and built-in internet safety features
Being involved and talking to your children
Social Networks have a minimum age restriction, usually age thirteen. Talk to your 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.
Ensure your children feel comfortable about telling you things that have happened online
Talking to your children will help you as parents to understand the ways in which they are using the internet, social media and their mobile phone
Advice for children:
The following are some things that you may wish to consider teaching your 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 as friends/followers online
Try not to talk to strangers - if you do, try to keep your personal information safe and your location hidden
Treat your password like your toothbrush – keep it to yourself and change it regularly
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, a teacher or an adult you trust
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.
Useful Links for Parents:
Internet Matters - provides an overview of cyber bullying in more detail
NSPCC - prevention of cyber bullying
Parent Zone - for parents and carers experiencing any internet safety issues with their children
stopbullying.gov - general information on cyber bullying