We all had that one person in school. The bully: The kid who constantly physically hurt another child or children, the kid who constantly verbally attacked another child or children. Now we need to prepare our children for a new kind of bully, the cyberbully.
Right from the start it is important to distinguish a cyberbully from the nasty online personalities. Some people just aren’t nice online. Maybe they’re a straight shooter and “call it like it is”, maybe they once commented on your daughter’s selfie and said she looked ridiculous. This is not cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is the repeated harm or harassment of someone in a deliberate manner using digital platforms. A cyberbully is the person that comments not on every selfie but every photo on Facebook with a mean or abusive comment. The cyberbully is the child who takes “undercover” photos of your child at school and then posts them online daily with a horrible or abusive comment.
The biggest headache for parents is that cyberbullies can be anyone. They can be a complete stranger living in Russia harassing your child or they could be the boy she sits next to at school. Kaspersky Lab has some really great tips to curb cyberbullying and I’ve used some of them to answer some typical questions that parents have.
So how do you ensure your child is not a victim of cyberbullying?
If your child is online it is your job, as a responsible parent, to monitor their online activity. Make sure you are aware of exactly what social media platforms they’re using, what they’re doing on them and who they are communicating with. It is your job to monitor your child’s online life. I’m not saying you should be checking their WhatsApp history daily, even tweens deserve some privacy from their parents, but make sure your kids know, no matter their age, that you will scroll through their chat history to see who they’re speaking to. Friend them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram. A moody teen might not like it but it is one of those “tough, I said so” situations. To curtail the strop you need to communicate to them why you are doing this and ensure they understand that it is for their benefit.
How do I educate my child about the online world?
Do your bit to keep your kids safe online and talk to them! From the moment you hand over access to the online world, make sure they know that they should only be sharing with people they know. Make sure they’re aware that anything they post online or share via their phones is out there forever. Once they press send they’ll never get rid of it. Also be a good example, if your Facebook page is filled with duck-faced selfies in a bathroom, you’re in no place to put your foot down when your daughter does the same. If your kids have access to your online profiles and you set a good example, they’re bound to follow.
My child is a victim of cyberbullying, now what?
Whether it is a physical, verbal or cyberbully, kids don’t usually speak up. They’re terrified of the bullying becoming worse or they’re ashamed. If you’re monitoring your child’s online actions you’ll be able to pick up any cyberbullying and nip it in the bud. If it is a stranger, you can use it as an educational exercise to show your child how to block profiles and report abusive behaviour to the various social media platforms. If the cyberbullying is being done by a peer or someone you or your child knows you’ll need to get the school and teachers involved. Remember you are the adult – if the cyberbully is a minor, do not try contact them or approach them directly. Take it up with their teachers or parents.
What if my child is the cyberbully?
If you’re monitoring your child’s behaviour on the internet they’ll probably not be the cyberbully, but if they are, you need to nip it in the bud immediately. Make sure they are well aware that their bad behaviour comes with consequences. They’ll need to apologise to their victim both in real life and online. I’d also suggest that you then revoke their internet privileges immediately.
The digital world is a vast and sometimes scary one – ensuring the safety of your kids starts with talking to them.