Posing as someone else is so much easier in this age of high technology with computers and mobile devices used to intimidate or dupe victims.
This is known as cyberbullying and while adults have their fair share, children are the ones who are most likely to feel the brunt of this harmful hectoring.
It is estimated that a staggering 75 percent of our teenagers have little or even no parental supervision while they are online. It is this lack of control that has made cyberbullying a type of abuse that can have catastrophic results such as teen suicide.
It is unrealistic for adults to be expected to be there at the computer or every time our children use their mobiles. There are ways, however, we can play our part in identifying and educating our youngsters when it comes to cyberbullying.
Spread the word
The best way to out cyberbullies is to share examples of their behaviour. Teachers often use role playing as an effective way of getting the message across. They encourage their pupils to come up with examples of what they perceive cyberbullying to be and then the class is expected to come up with solutions to this.
If your child has become a victim of online bullying, don’t hesitate to let the school know. Schools take bullying in any shape or form very seriously and will have tools in place to deal with this. Teachers, likewise, should alert parents and the headteacher if they come across this type of abuse.
Make regular checks
As we mentioned, we can’t be all places at all times and that there will be periods where your child will have unsupervised access to a computer or a mobile phone. This doesn’t mean to say you don’t implement any sort of controls. You can be aware of what they are doing online by keeping the computer screen where you can see it. Having a laptop, tablet or computer in a teen’s bedroom is not ideal. If possible, create a specific area for them to study.
Get in the know
Make it your busines to know what social networks your child subscribes to. If they are on Facebook, for example, make sure you show them how to block a user, report any abuse and set their own privacy controls. Warn them not to “friend” anyone they don’t know. Also, make them aware that others can create a Facebook page stealing their identity therefore putting the blame of cyberbullying squarely on their shoulders.
As much as they will protest, you should know their passwords to all of their social networking sites. It is either this or no computer or mobile time at all. It is important to establish clear guidelines of what you expect from them.
Examples of cyberbullying:
- Assuming someone else’s identity with a malicious intent to play pranks on them and others
- Spreading lies or rumours about someone via text messages, emails or messages via social media. This includes forwarding messages from others
- Tricking someone into revealing personal information or sending images
- Threats to physically harm someone or their family