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Cyber bullying

How to help your child through cyber bullying

We understand that it’s never easy, as a parent, to see your child go through bullying. Part of you just wants to leap up and step in. But given that bullies no longer just lurk on the school playground but live on social networks, it’s time to look at a different approach.

How do I know if my child is being bullied?

Looking out for your child and respecting their privacy is no easy balancing act. Especially on social media. But at the core, bullying elicits similar reactions in most kids, irrespective of whether it happens online or offline. The three key things we recommend looking out for are:

  • Kids withdrawing from activity: Bullying often plays on the mind of your child, making them lose focus on everyday activities, even ones they like. If you notice a sudden dip in their routine, it may be a good time to ask about bullying.
  • Kids talk less about friends: This too can be a subtle sign that your child might be processing something else internally and should be seen as chance to chat.
  • Kids discuss lacking friends: This is a clear invitation from your child to discuss something that may be troubling them, which might be cyber bullying.

What if I find my child is the bully?

Young people who have never bullied anyone could be drawn into cyber bullying because they think they are anonymous. They may do or say things they wouldn’t dream of doing face-to-face, because they’re hiding behind a screen. Or they might succumb to peer pressure and join in a conversation on a social media site without thinking of the consequences. Like all bullies, cyber bullies rely on others to endorse their behaviour, join in or simply not challenge them.

So if you think your child could be bullying someone:

  • Talk to them openly about what they are doing and why it is unacceptable.
  • Listen to what they say – they may genuinely not understand the effect they are having on someone else or that what they are doing is bullying.
  • Try and understand the source of the bullying behaviour, but don’t let reasons become excuses.
  • Tell them that you love them but that their behaviour must change.
  • Make them aware of the legal details of the Harmful communications act to help them understand that there might be a legal implication from their behaviour.

At what stage should I get involved?

Our partners at NetSafe put it as clearly as possible: “Anyone threatening to physically hurt you or damage your property is breaking the law. If you feel like you are in immediate danger call 111 straight away.”

Beyond immediate threats, the Harmful Digital Communications Act outlines new criminal offences designed to help prevent and reduce the impact of such actions. As the NetSafe team says, “If you believe that you are the target of harmful or criminal behaviour online then it is vitally important that you collect evidence of the incident as soon as possible after you discover it. While it may seem like deleting the content is the quickest solution, by doing this you may take away any opportunity to have action carried out by the content host or a law enforcement agency.”

7 ways to help your child if they’re being bullied

  1. Let them share their concerns and what they want to happen.
  2. Take their concerns seriously, while trying to remain calm.
  3. Try not to attribute blame, even if your child has done something you advised them not to.
  4. If the bully is someone at school, talk to a teacher and find out what their anti-bullying policy is.
  5. Remain sensitive to your child’s feelings. So, for instance, don’t indefinitely ban their use of all internet-enabled devices.
  6. Resist the temptation to approach the bully yourself, even if it’s someone you or your child knows.
  7. Make a plan together, for example: Advise them not to reply to the bully. Help them to save emails or TXTs as evidence, take screen shots of websites, and contact their internet or mobile provider. Remove the bully from their friends list, and set their social media profile to private. Use the Report / Block options on social media sites or use Vodafone’s free Blacklist services to block certain numbers from TXTing or calling your child.
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