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Cyber-bullying: It’s important that you talk to your child about how to stay safe when using mobile phones and the internet.
Bullying is no longer confined to just the playground. Cyberbullying is a different yet no less real threat to your child. It can be difficult to spot and harder to manage than ‘traditional’ bullying. Understanding these dangers will help you support your child.
What's different about cyber-bullying?
As with other types of bullying, the bully intends to cause the victim harm over a period of time. Cyber-bullying differs from other forms of bullying because:
- It can happen at any time of day, anywhere. The victim can be targeted with bullying messages at home.
- The audience witness to the bullying can be large and reached very quickly and easily if messages are forwarded or posted online.
- It can be unintentional, because things aren’t said face to face; kids may not consider the consequences of sending messages or images.
Ways of cyber-bullying
Cyber-bullying can occur through the following ways:
Chat rooms, blogs and forums – although some of these are moderated, people involved in discussions can still be sent abusive messages.
Text messaging – abusive and threatening texts can be sent to mobile phones.
Abusive or prank phone calls – these can be made to your child’s mobile phone.
Picture messaging – offensive images can be sent to mobile phones.
Email – new addresses can be readily set up and used to send offensive messages and images.
Social networking and personal websites (like Facebook or Twitter) can be used to post offensive or humiliating messages and images.
Identity theft – Online fake profiles can be set up in someone else's name to bully others.
Instant message services – quicker than email, these allow users to have 'real time' conversations. Offensive messages or content can be sent in this way.
Video hosting sites (like YouTube) – bullies can use these sites to post videos of the victims or children can be accidentally exposed to pornographic images.
Minimising the risks of cyber-bullying
When it comes to any type of bullying, it is important that you listen to your child and respond sympathethically. Your child needs to understand that bullying is wrong and that asking for help from an adult is the right thing to do.It’s necessary for children to learn to respect friends online just as they would in a face to face situation. Speak to your child about the importance of who they speak to online and how they interact. Ensure that they are fully aware of the rules and guidelines for using social media.
You should also make sure you:
Are aware that there are many ways children can access the internet, such as on a mobile phone or by using a games console.
Encourage your child to talk to you or another trusted adult about anything that’s bothering them.
Watch out for them seeming upset or angry after using a computer or their mobile phone.
Ask them to think about how their actions affect other users.
Suggest that they avoid private chat rooms.
Encourage them to report any abusive or offensive emails or messages they receive to you or a trusted adult and to always keep copies.
Report any abuse to their school, the website manager/moderator or if needed, the Guards.
Make sure they understand they should never respond to any abusive messages or calls as this is exactly what the bully wants.
Discuss keeping their passwords safe and ensure they understand that they should never give out personal information, such as their name or mobile phone number to anyone they do not know.
Change email address or telephone number if the abuse continues.
Install computer software to ensure that you only receive emails from approved senders and to block unwanted images and unsuitable websites.
Read more: Six tips to stop cyber-bullying