Cyberbullying is any form of bullying that is carried out through the use of electronic media devices, such as computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, or gaming consoles.
What makes cyberbullying different to other types of bullying?
There is a strong link between cyberbullying and face to face bullying. Research has shown that 80% of victims of cyberbullying were also bullied face to face.
Bullying is far more wide spread now it is online, children are not just spending time together in school it also affects their social life, where at the moment this is mainly online.
There are some things that make cyberbullying different to other types of bullying:
- 24-7 nature - the nature of online activity means children can be in contact at any time.
- There is the potential for a wider audience and bullying incidents can stay online, for example: a photo that you can't be removed.
- Evidence - a lot of cyberbullying incidents allow those experiencing it to keep evidence - for example, take a screen shot - to show to school staff or police if needed.
- Potential to hide your identity - it is possible to hide your identity online which can make cyberbullying incidents very scary
- Degree of separation - people who cyberbully often don't see the reaction of those experiencing it so it can sometimes be harder for them to see the impact of their actions
There are many statistics relating to levels of cyberbullying. Research shows
- 24% of children and young people will experience some form of cyberbullying
- 17% of children and young people will cyberbully others
- Name calling is the most common type of cyberbullying
What can parents do?
It's important to be aware of what your children do online. But snooping can alienate them and damage the trust you've built together. The key is to stay involved in a way that makes your children understand that you respect their privacy but want to make sure they're safe.
Tell your children that it's important to:
- Be nice. Mean behavior is not OK. Make it clear that you expect your children to treat others with respect, and to never post hurtful or embarrassing messages. And ask them to always tell you about any harassing or bullying messages that others post.
- Think twice before hitting "enter." Remind children about their digital footprint, that what they post can be used against them and can't be deleted.
- Follow the "WWGS?" (What Would Grandma Say?) rule. Teach kids not to share anything on social media that they wouldn't want their teachers, college admissions officers, future bosses — and yes, grandma — to see.
- Use privacy settings. Privacy settings are important. Check yours. Also explain to your child that passwords are there to protect them against things like identity theft. They should never share them with anyone, even a best friend.
- Don't "friend" strangers. "If you don't know them, don't friend them." This is a plain, simple — and safe — rule of thumb.
Make a Contract
As your children get older, consider making a "social media agreement" In it, your child could agree to protect their own privacy, consider their reputation, and not give out personal information. They also promise not to use technology to hurt anyone else through bullying or gossip.
In turn, parents agree to respect your child's privacy while making an effort to be part of the social media world. This means you can "friend" and observe them, but won't post embarrassing comments or rants about messy rooms.
Other things you could do to keep your child safe online
- Put limits on media use.
- Keep computers in public areas in the house, avoid laptops and smartphones in bedrooms, and set some rules on the use of technology (such as no devices at the dinner table).
And don't forget: Setting a good example through your own virtual behavior can go a long way toward helping your children use social media safely.