With cyber bullying in Ireland featuring so much in the media lately, parents want to know how to respond. What can you do if your child is being cyber bullied?
Cyber bullying is psychological rather than physical. It is carried out using the Internet, mobile phone, laptop or tablet by sending messages, posts, emails and photos.
A once off incident is not bullying, but if it is sustained, repeated and deliberate, it is.
Failure to speak up can result in unintentional complicity. The victim may not know the bully and can be suspicious of everyone and feel no one can be trusted. Teenagers questioned say they don’t speak up as they are afraid that they may be the bully’s next target.
Parents need to tell their teenagers that they are responsible for their actions and are accountable for whatever happens. Teens need to know therefore that the moment, the very moment, they decide to hit the SEND or POST button that they will have to deal with the results of their actions.
“The difference with cyber bullying is that the contact is 24/7.”
Traditional bullying meant that home was a safe haven, now there is no such thing as bullying comes into the phone, laptop, computer and iPad at night. Technology can be used to intimidate, humiliate, impersonate or exclude someone. Most of the time, parents may be unaware that this is even happening. When a comment is put up on Facebook, the speed of contact and the audience is huge.
Where possible, create opportunities for them to talk with you and encourage expression. Let them say how they feel, when they are ready, and what they need from you. Talk to your children/teenagers about being safe online. Children need boundaries to feel secure. The minimum age for Facebook and YouTube is 13 years, but these are the top two sites for under this age where they spend approximately 80 minutes each day online according to recent studies. Advise them of the consequences of making poor choices and to be careful not to get caught up in something they did not intend.
Talk with your child/teen about the power and responsibility of the bystander. Failure to speak up or report otherwise results in unintentional complicity. Teenagers questioned say they don’t speak up as they are afraid that they may be the bully’s next target. Reassure them that they can always report an incident to a parent or teacher.
- Do not respond
- Go offline
- Block the sender
- Keep the evidence – take a screenshot
- Report (Gardaí/mobile phone operator)
What to say to someone that is being cyberbullied?
‘This is not your fault, the person who bullies has the problem, not you’
‘Bullies are unhappy people who are unhappy with themselves’
‘Don’t ever believe what the bully says’
‘Anyone can be bullied’
‘I am 100% on your side’ – they need to hear this
‘Don’t let them know you are upset as the bully is looking for a reaction’
Enabling your child/teen ensures they feel competent and confident. Doing less teaches them to do more so give them lots of opportunities to undertake challenges and support them with time for training and ensure they know that it’s alright to make a mistake, as mistakes are part of learning.
ADVICE FOR PARENTS
Get under 13’s off Facebook (13 is Facebook’s minimum age)
Know their passwords and pin numbers
Keep technology in open space and monitor their activity regularly
Be upfront and tell them you will be checking their messages and history
Don’t be afraid to say no
Set limits and boundaries
For younger children, buy phones without internet (Tesco €12)
Broadband can be turned off at night (9pm–9am)
Use filtering software
Ensure their profile is set to private
Advise them not to share their passwords and to log out when finished
Sheila O’Malley is a professional trainer and parenting mentor.
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