The parents' role in preventing cyberbullying
- Tessa Daniels, Guest blogger
Here on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal, our aim is to provide a multistakeholder platform showcasing a range of viewpoints and experiences on keeping children and young people safe online. As such, we welcome guest blog posts on our areas of focus. We were recently contacted by Tessa Daniels, who shared with us her views on helping teens stay safe from cyberbullying, especially if transitioning to a new educational setting
"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words…" can hurt much deeper. Bullying is an age-old issue. From historical narratives to the most current movie scenes, bullying can be found in every culture and generation, and it is clearly something everyone can relate to. The circumstances may vary, but most of us experienced bullying as a child or know someone who was bullied.
Times of significant life changes also increase the risk of bullying. For example, moving to a new city or state could heighten the potential for bullying, because a child becomes the "new kid," at school. Of course, in the past, relief from the school bully could be found just inside your own front door. But, in today's world, school-age kids are faced with a new form of bullying that doesn't stop once they get home. In fact, home may be where they encounter the bully the most, because all of the degrading words you could ever imagine can be "heard" in the palm of your hand on a smartphone or tablet. This is called "cyberbullying".
A cyberbully is someone who uses the internet to intimidate, make fun of, or threaten another person. This began with commonality of the internet, because people could share anything they wanted anonymously in cyberspace. Now, the widespread use of social media has provided a new platform for bullies of all kinds to wreak havoc on the emotions of their schoolmates. It's a significant problem that has yet to be solved in the world of social media; however, that doesn't mean we should stand by helplessly. There is always something you can do to help your child avoid a cyberbully.
Know the stats
- Cyberbullying currently accounts for around 16-18 per cent of calls to helplines, operating as part of the Insafe network of Safer Internet Centres (SICs) in Europe. The most recent data collection covered the period October-December 2017 and 16 per cent of calls related to cyberbullying, with around a quarter of helplines finding that cyberbullying was the most common issue for young people to contact them about. Across the Insafe network, cyberbullying has consistently been the biggest issue for young people for over five years.
- In its final report, EU Kids Online, a 33-country research network which conducted a unique, detailed, face-to-face survey in homes with 9-16 year old internet users from 25 countries and their parents, found that, across Europe, 6 per cent of 9 to 16-year-old internet users report having been bullied online, and 3 per cent confess to having bullied others. Respondents also reported that bullying is the online risk that upsets them most, more than sexual images, sexual messages, or meeting online contacts offline.
Know how to help
As a parent, it's important that you know if your child is being bullied. Rumours, impermissible photos, hacked accounts, or harsh messages are all ways cyberbullies harass their victims. If your child is facing this type of bullying, there are a few ways that you can reach out to help:
- Have a conversation with your child to ask them about their new friends or what everyone is saying on social media. You could also speak with your child's teachers, administrators, or school resource officers to ask if they can help keep an eye on your child until they can settle in.
- Encourage your child to avoid responding to rude comments on social media. Bullies prefer to have an appearance of power, so the less attention they receive from their actions, the less likely they are to make those comments. Facilitate opportunities for your child to make new friends in the school, including after-school hangouts at your house or taking them to the movies with other kids from school.
- Create a relaxing and stress-free atmosphere in your home. Transitions are hard for a teen who is having to adjust their life and routine to match their new community. Providing healthy snacks, maintaining a clean house, or creating a space for your student to "unplug" from their day will help your teen feel safe and secure.
- If your child begins exhibiting the warning signs of cyberbullying - mood swings, unwillingness to go to school, isolation, sudden changes in weight, or suicidal thoughts or actions - speak with them about the issues they are facing. Consider setting up a meeting with the school to ask for their input on how your child can resolve the issue.
- Teach your children how to create screenshots of unpleasant conversations online or via text. Have their image accounts linked to a cloud-based platform to ensure these images (evidence) are saved.
Talk to your child about speaking up for themselves or others if they are being threatened in any way. A new school, a new community, a new friend group, or a new social media platform should not be an intimidating or uncomfortable environment. Surround your teenager with the tools they need to avoid a bully, and in doing so you can help prevent cyberbullying.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal, European Schoolnet (EUN), the European Commission (EC) or any related organisations or parties.
About the author of this article:
Tessa Daniels strives to keep all teenagers safe. As a result, she created Teensafety to serve as a voice for parents of teens everywhere.
If you would like to contribute a guest blog post to the BIK portal, find out more at www.betterinternetforkids.eu/contentcontributions.
- Italian Safer Internet Centre
Safer Internet Day (SID) was celebrated on Tuesday, 6 February 2018 right across the globe. Read on to find out more about how the Italian Safer Internet Centre (SIC) celebrated the day, with a strong focus on measures to challenge cyberbullying.
- João Pedro Martins, Youth Ambassador
The March 2017 edition of the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) bulletin focuses on cyberbullying and, in particular, new approaches to combatting it. As always in the work we do in creating a safer and better internet, gaining the perspectives of young people is essential. Here, João from Portugal shares his thoughts.