Digital technology has many positive benefits for your children, from developing crucial IT skills to providing a source of entertainment and fun. Unfortunately, the internet, mobiles and other devices have also created a new channel for bullying. Known as cyberbullying, this can be extremely upsetting for children and teenagers – especially as the scale, speed and 24/7 nature of the digital world means it can take place anywhere and at any time.
What do I need to know about cyberbullying?
Around one in three young people in the UK say they have been cyberbullied, so you need to understand what this form of bullying entails and how you can help your child to avoid becoming a victim or a perpetrator. Bullies use technology to make threats, intimidate, harass, defame and exclude young people and, in some cases, to impersonate them or steal their identity. Some of the most common cyberbullying methods are:
Text bullying – your child might receive nasty or threatening text messages
Bullying on a social network – someone might post nasty comments about your child on a site such as Facebook or set up a fake profile about them
Publishing and sharing images without your child’s permission – photos, videos or webcam footage of your child could be circulated via email or text, posted online, or tagged with their name on a public website
Email and Instant Message (IM) bullying – your child might receive nasty or threatening emails or IMs from someone they know or a stranger
Bullying during interactive gaming – if your child plays multi-player games, a fellow gamer might try to block, ignore or threaten them.
Just like bullying in the real world, cyberbullying can have a very negative impact on your child – undermining their confidence and sense of security, affecting their attendance and performance at school and fuelling prejudice. Young people who have never bullied anyone in real life might be drawn into cyberbullying because they think they’re anonymous when they use the internet or their mobile. They might do things that they wouldn’t dream of doing face-to-face and use technology to deliberately upset a friend, a stranger, even a teacher. Or they might succumb to peer pressure and forward a bullying email or text on or take part in a bullying conversation on a social networking site without thinking about the consequences.
What action can I take?
Talk to your child about cyberbullying, just as you would about other kinds of bullying, and encourage them to come to you if anyone ever upsets them when they’re on the internet, their mobile or other devices.
If your child tells you they’re being cyberbullied, offer them practical as well as emotional support:
Reassure them that they have done the right thing by telling you what’s going on
Explain that they should not respond to any of the bullying as it might make things worse
Sit down with your child and make a written record of the cyberbullying and gather evidence, such as saving texts or printing out emails and screen shots of websites – don’t delete anything
member of the pastoral house team.
If you think a crime has been committed or if you’re worried your child is in immediate danger, contact the local police – even though cyberbullying is not a specific criminal offence in the UK, other laws might apply.
If you think your child could be using technology to bully someone else:
· Talk to them about cyberbullying and explain why it’s unacceptable and has to stop
· Have an open discussion with your child – ask them why they’re doing it and listen to what they say
· If they didn’t realise that what they were doing was bullying, explain that bullying is not just physical – using technology to tease, embarrass and spread rumours are also bullying behaviours
· Talk to the schools house staff about what’s been going on and let them know that you’re willing to work with the school to ensure it doesn’t happen again
· Reassure your child that you still love them but make it clear that their behaviour must change
· Encourage them to tell you or a teacher about any bullying that they witness, including cyberbullying incidents