Norton UK Blog
How To Protect Your Child Against Cyberbullying
Bullying – it’s an age-old problem. But it’s one that’s found a new lease of life on the Internet. Thanks to our ‘always on’ mobile technology and our enthusiasm for sharing everything without care, cyberbullying has found the perfect home online. Cyberbullies can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet, and reach their target easily at almost any time and from anywhere, while broadcasting to a potentially limitless audience.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying that’s carried out via technology, most commonly through social media. It includes doing anything online or on a mobile device that threatens, intimidates, harasses, demeans, embarrasses or humiliates someone, or causes them to be excluded and isolated.
Sending nasty texts, publicly posting someone’s embarrassing private photos, excluding a person from an online game, or using someone else’s Facebook account to cause havoc with their friends – it’s all cyberbullying.
Why is it so harmful?
Cyberbullies can follow their victims around everywhere 24/7, so kids can feel there’s no escape – not even in their own homes. If the bullying is severe and goes on for a long time without being tackled, it can lead to low self-esteem, low self-confidence, anxiety, depression, social isolation, self-harm and – in extreme cases – suicide. The bullies themselves are also at risk and may need help to understand and stop their bullying behaviour.
Anti-cyberbullying charity The Cybersmile Foundation reports that 90 per cent of kids who are bullied online don’t tell their parents or other adults. This could be because they fear they may not be allowed to go online or may have their phones taken away. They may also be embarrassed or ashamed to admit it, or fear that the bullying will get worse if they tell someone.
How big a problem is cyberbullying?
Statistics vary, but regardless of the exact figures it’s likely that few families are unaffected. Ask your kids – if they haven’t been bullied online themselves, they’ve probably seen it happen to a friend.
And it’s on the increase.
The 2014 Net Children Go Mobile report shows that cyberbullying is now more common than face-to-face bullying. In 2010, 16 per cent of children said they had been bullied face to face, 8 per cent via the internet and 5 per cent on mobile phones. In 2013, 12 per cent of kids reported being cyberbullied, while 9 per cent said they had been bullied face to face. Most cyberbullying happened on social networks.
UK charity Childline has seen an 87 per cent rise in contacts relating to online bullying.
Recent research by communications regulator Ofcom found that:
• Almost one in ten 12- to 15-year-olds and 4 per cent of 8- to 11-year-olds say they were bullied online in the past year.
• Almost half of all 12- to 15-year-olds know someone else who was bullied online, or had embarrassing photos shared, or gossip about them spread online or via mobiles. One in five said they had experienced this themselves.
And, according to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre’s education programme:
• 21 per cent of 8- to 11-year-olds have been ‘deliberately targeted, threatened or humiliated’ online or via a mobile phone.
Findings from a survey by UK anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label show just how big a problem cyberbullying has become:
• 70 per cent of young people have been bullied online, 37 per cent of them ‘very frequently’.
• 20 per cent experience extreme cyberbullying every day.
• Both genders are equally at risk.
• Youngsters are twice as likely to be bullied on Facebook as on any other social network; 54 per cent of young Facebook users experienced cyberbullying.
• Cyberbullying has ‘catastrophic’ effects on the social lives and self-esteem of up to 7 in 10 young people.
• 5.43 million youngsters in the UK have been cyberbullied; 1.26 million are victims of extreme cyberbullying on a daily basis.
What can you do to prevent it?
1. Talk to your kids
Ask them what they know about cyberbullying, if it happens at their school, and how they would respond if they or their friends were being bullied online.
Encourage them to tell you about their online lives, especially anything that upsets them. Be aware of what they are doing online, the social networks and apps they use, the games they play, and who they are talking to. Encourage them to think before talking online to people they don’t know offline.
Ask them to tell you straight away if they are being bullied – or if one of their friends is. Let them know they have your unconditional support. Reassure them that you won’t confiscate their phones, tablets or laptops.
2. Educate your children
Explain what’s appropriate online behaviour, and what’s not. Make sure your kids understand how easy it is to embarrass or hurt themselves or other people by sharing thoughtlessly.
Make sure they know how to use security settings and how to block someone who is upsetting them.
Explain how sharing their passwords can lead to other people taking control of their online accounts and identity.
Ensure their profiles are private. This will limit the number of online friends they have, and there’ll be less chance of your child being bullied.
Discourage them from posting photos of themselves, or others, for their peers to ‘like’ or rate. These virtual slam books are bound to attract negative comments.
Delete apps that allow your children to chat with anonymous strangers, or apps that can hide other apps.
3. Agree clear rules on internet use
Explain what your kids can and can’t do, and why. Make the rules age-appropriate. Amend them as your child matures.
4. Monitor online and phone activity
You can do this openly by actively joining in with your child online, visiting sites with them, and asking to ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ them on social networks – then you can check their Twitter and Facebook feeds. Or use monitoring and parental control software, which can be customised for different children. Be aware that kids may quickly learn how to bypass parental controls.
Be careful – your kids might start hiding their online behaviour from you if they feel you’re invading their privacy. You might want to explain why you’re keeping tabs on them.
5. Watch out for warning signs, which can include:
• Mood changes – becoming angry, upset or depressed.
• Behaviour changes – becoming withdrawn, being aggressive with other family members, not eating or sleeping properly, having nightmares, bed-wetting.
• Refusing to go to school, acting up or suddenly getting poor marks.
• Complaining of stomach pain or headaches.
• Abrupt changes in friendships.
• Keeping out of sight while using mobiles/tablets/PCs, becoming jumpy when they get a text, spending too much time online, avoiding certain sites or apps.
• Obsession with checking social networks and texts.
6. Nurture empathy
Encourage your child to consider other people’s viewpoints and circumstances. Point out that it is the behaviour of the bully that is bad – not the bully themselves.
7. Be a good role model
Treat other people with respect and kindness online. Don’t post pictures or comments thoughtlessly, or deliberately upset or provoke others. And stay away from Internet trolls.
If cyberbullying happens, what should you do?
Don’t panic. Try to remain calm, find out what actually happened, and get help.
• Don’t blame your child.
• Don’t ban internet access.
• Tell your child not to respond. Reacting or retaliating plays into the bully’s hands.
• Be supportive. Make sure your child feels safe and knows they have your support.
Ask them how you can help. Contact a counsellor trained to deal with bullying.
• Save the evidence. Tell your child not to delete abusive images or remarks. Take screenshots of posts on social media, save instant messages, and print copies of messages and websites.
• Block, delete and report the bully. Tell the host website or social network where the bullying took place – look for a ‘help’ or ‘contact us’ link. If a fellow student is involved, inform the school.
• Contact the police if the bullying is of a sexual nature or if you believe your child is in danger.
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