During anti-bullying week, we are going to explore online bullying which is often referred to as cyberbullying. This is bullying or harassment that takes place over an electronic device such as a mobile, tablet or console. A number of studies over the past four years have shown a sharp rise in the occurrence of cyberbullying, with the National Crime Prevention Council suggesting that 43% of children have experienced online bullying, with many more instances being unreported.
Cyberbullying is especially dangerous, as for some children and young people (CYP) there is no escape. This is not something that happens at one particular place or time, it can happen anywhere, 24/7. It is important to think about ways both schools, parents and carers can protect CYP. Bullying of any form can have a serious and long lasting impact on mental health and self-esteem; therefore, it is vital that it is stopped and that support is put in place as soon as possible. Below are some top tips for ensuring CYP’s safety.
Talk openly with CYP about bullying in all forms.
The anti-bullying campaign has a number of resources which can be used both at home as a family, or in a school setting. This includes informative videos, classroom presentations and art activities as well as informative posters, which can be displayed in schools.
By talking openly about bullying, it enables CYP to understand the difference between bullying and banter. Being open also helps CYP speak out about when they are feeling overwhelmed or targeted. It is important to talk about all different types of bullying so that it is easily identified and can be stopped as soon as possible.
Ensure you and your child are up to date on online safety.
Schools often provide more in depth information on online safety in general – which covers a range of important information including the impact of cyberbullying. Often schools will hold events or publish information to support parents with ensuring online safety and this often looks at online dangers and how parents can apply privacy settings and boundaries to support CYP.
The ThinkuKnow website has a range of information relating to online safety and reporting concerns in the form of simple presentations that can be accessed on the link attached.
It is a parent/carers responsibility to ensure that children are safe whilst exploring the internet by applying secure privacy settings and being aware of what their child is accessing online, is key to keeping them safe.
When problems arise with cyberbullying it is not always easy for school to deal with as it often happens outside of school and it could potentially involve people who school or your CYP do not know. In this instance it can become a Police matter – school will always be able to advise you if you have any concerns about your child.
Be aware of platforms for online bullying
When thinking about online bullying this can also happen in many forms and this is mainly due to the constantly changing ways CYP use apps and the internet. A good place to check up on the different apps being used by children is on the NSPCCs net aware site https://www.net-aware.org.uk/networks/
They have information about all the latest apps accessed by CYP and they are given risk ratings for bullying, drinks, drugs and crime, violence and hatred, sexual content, and self-harm and suicide. It also clearly states the age restriction of the app and it has a description of what that app may be used for. CYP should only access apps that are appropriate for their age range.
Cyberbullying can also take place on games consoles and this is especially prevalent when CYP have access to headsets and engage in gaming with people they don’t know.
Monitor your child’s usage
As mentioned previously cyberbullying can be difficult for children to escape from. Set some clear boundaries around screen and internet time and remove your CYP’s screens at least an hour before bedtime to promote positive sleep.
A number of studies have highlighted how long periods of screen time has been linked to increased mental health and low self-esteem in CYP. The NHS talks about how screen time can have a detrimental impact on sleep time and can delay a child’s development.
If your child does report bullying online, support them by blocking the person involved and reporting this to the platform on which the bullying has taken place and to school or other relevant professionals. It is also important to be aware of your CYP privacy settings, as having open accounts where strangers can view their content, increases a range of risks. CYP should have private accounts and only accept or add people who they know well to view their content.
Be aware of other online dangers
CYP have more access to dangerous and explicit material than ever before through their internet use and it is important that they are aware of risks around grooming, sexting and other online dangers, as well as the risks around bullying. It is also key that they understand their digital footprint and how what they post online is always present and can affect them in their future.
Schools that access the Caritas Schools’ Service can utilise their worker to be able to deliver a number of informative presentations around online safety and cyberbullying to CYP and their parents. There are also a range of other places you can go to for more information and support as either a parent or a member of school staff – such as ThinkuKnow or the NSPCC.
Let us put an end to cyberbullying by keeping our children safe online.