What can parents and children do to tackle cyberbullies?

"It's that breach of trust that really affects children a lot"

Cyberbullying is often considered to be something teenagers do via new media, but this week proved once again that it's not just kids. Everyone can be a cyberbully and anyone could be a victim. If grown adults struggle with it, imagine how difficult it must be for children. 

Before we can tackle the issue, we must attempt to understand it. Grainia Long, CEO of the ISPCC, provides some clarity as to what exactly cyberbullying entails.

"Cyberbullying is defined as being similar to traditional forms of bullying in that it tends to be deliberate, it tends to happen more than once and it is intended to cause harm or offence, but it happens online."

While this is similar to the traditional bullying many of us experienced in the school yard, Long says there's one big difference between the two forms of bullying.

"Cyberbullying is pervasive. For a long time bullying was contained to one place, so it could be at a sports club or it might be at school. Cyberbullying, because of the nature of online activity, never goes away. We're rarely away from our phones. When children call us about cyberbullying they tend to get more upset because it follows them home, it can follow them into their bedroom."

Trust:

The lack of refuge is the real danger with cyberbullying. Waking up, going to school and come home with bullies in your pocket is incredibly damaging. Very often children can suffer in silence because they don't know what else can be done. 

 

"What we often find, when we listen to children is that, they tell us that they didn't know they were being bullied because it took place either with people or was undertaken to them by people that they know," says Long. "Children often tell us that they don't expect or weren't expecting to be bullied by that person because it was their friend. The reason they tend to call us in the aftermath, is to ask 'does this sound like bullying to you?'. I think most people like to think their friends are positive, so it's often a shock when they're bullied by a friend. It's that breach of trust that really affects children a lot."

Many parents debate about what age their children should be allowed online. Experts say that very much depends on the maturity of the child. It's recommended that the child's parent or guardian takes into account what else is going on around the child. Just because one ten year old can cope with having an online presence, doesn't mean every ten year old could. 

What to do:

If, as a parent, you decide to allow your child enter the online sphere, ensure you are comfortable with the technology and online platforms they will be using. Take some time to set up social accounts and tie your child's profiles to yours. This way, you can monitor their profile information and see who they add as friends. 

As with everything in life, moderation is key. Children should not spend all day, everyday online (nor should adults!). If your child has their own phone, tablet or computer, enable parental restrictions to ensure you can kill internet access at particular times. This keeps you in control. 

Have a conversation with your child about the issue of cyberbullying. 

"Talking about cyberbullying will help children understand that it's not acceptable," explains Grainia Long of the ISPCC, "Tell them that nobody is supposed to be able to cope with it. It's not a good thing to happen to you. Encourage your child to a friend or an adult if they suspect they or someone around them is being bullied. And certainly if they feel that they are being harmed or in anyway uncomfortable. That person may well have been through something similar themselves and help them through it."

If you are a child or young person and want someone to talk to , you can contact Childline: 1800 66 66 66 or you'll find them online here.

 

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