Summer half-term is here and many children will be keen to keep in touch with friends using social media.
And although staying connected is a positive, as it allows children to feel empowered – parents need to be aware of the potential dangers.
A new survey by Internet Matters reveals how cyberbullying has become a greater concern than face-to-face bullying – with one in five parents admitting their child has received cruel comments online.
In a survey of 2,000 parents of children aged between nine and 16, nearly seven out of 10 (68%) said their top concern on the issue was their children being targeted over their physical appearance, followed by popularity (52%) and sexism (26%).
The research also found that traditional conventions of bullying have changed as a result of social media growth. It found that 10% more boys had been bullied over their body image than girls (17.4% versus 15.7%).
It’s worth noting that the figures have arisen from a survey of parents, so they don’t include incidents mums and dads don’t know about, and we know children are often reluctant to talk about cyberbullying for fear of their devices being removed.
As parents we need to acknowledge how bullying has changed and be conscious that this is no longer a playground issue.
Cyberbullying can transcend the home and the relentless nature of the online world, makes it impossible for children to escape.
Our children have been born into a digital age and issues such as cyberbullying should now be an innate part of our parental concerns.
The figures also found that average age that children begin to get bullied over their physical appearance is aged just 11.
It reinforces why we need to talk to our children as early as possible and have conversations about cyberbullying before they are given an internet-enabled device.
Half-term provides the perfect opportunity to have that initial conversation with your child about cyberbullying and discuss the importance of what they say and share online and the importance of being kind online.
It also gives you the chance to look out for signs of cyberbullying which include; your child stopping using their electronic devices suddenly or unexpectedly; Seeming nervous or jumpy when using their devices, or becoming obsessive about being constantly online; becoming sad, withdrawn, angry, or lashing out; not taking part in usual social activities; Unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach upsets and avoiding discussions about what they’re doing online or who they’re talking to.
Arming ourselves with the best possible tools on how to address the subject of cyberbullying before it happens and understanding what to do if it happens will help keep our children safe.
Here’s some tips on what to do if your child is being cyberbullied:
Talk about it – find the right time to approach your child if you think they’re being bullied
Show your support – be calm and considered and tell them how you’ll help them get through it
Don’t stop them going online – taking away their devices or restricting usage might make things worse and make your child feel more isolated
Help them to deal with it themselves – if it’s among school friends, and if they feel they can, advise them to tell the person how it made them feel and ask to take any comments or pictures down
Don’t retaliate – getting angry won’t help, advise your child not to respond to abusive messages and leave conversations if they’re uncomfortable
Block the bullies – if the messages are repeated block and report the sender to the social network or gaming platform
Keep the evidence – take screenshots in case you need them later as proof of what’s happened
Don’t deal with it alone – talk to friends for support and if necessary your child’s school who will have an anti-bullying policy.
Visit internetmatters.org/issues/cyberbullying for more advice on cyberbullying.
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