This week is Anti-Bullying Week so I've been hunting around on the internet (safely obvs) to find the best advice about how to prevent, and deal with bullying - particularly cyberbullying.
I also took part in an online discussion hosted by Kapersky about child online safety. Their study of 1,000 under 16s was very revealing, showing that most children look to their parents to keep them safe online, while most parents admit to being clueless about cyber protection - me included.
There is no doubt that the risk of cyberbullying is increasing as well as being difficult to report - so no one really knows the extent of the problem. It's typically hard to spot as it can happen any time.
There are some tell-tale signs to look out for in your child's behaviour:
- Being upset or withdrawn after using the internet or their mobile phone
- Being unwilling to talk or being secretive about their online activities or phone use
- Unusual patterns of behaviour online - much more or much less time than usual on social media or gaming
- Not wanting to take part in activities they enjoyed previously, like meeting up with friends.
The best way to stop online bullying is through prevention.
Here are some tips which I've picked up from various sources, most of which are more appropriate for younger children, mainly because that's my personal focus. The teenage years are a whole different ball game!
- Make screen time a social activity, encourage your child to play on their tablet in the same room as you, so you can see where on the internet your child is playing. Allowing kids to take their screens into their bedrooms can encourage secretive behaviour.
- Encourage children to talk to you about what they're doing online by asking them questions as they play. This is a good way to develop a trusting relationship with your child about what they are doing online and allows a way for you to introduce the notion of online safety without being preachy.
- Explain to your child that just as we don't talk to strangers in the street, so we shouldn't talk to strangers online.
- Keep your online passwords to yourself so that your kids can't download inappropriate games or change your privacy settings.
- Set boundaries from the start. Explain to your child what they are allowed to do online and what they should do if they find inappropriate content (ie disconnect). Limit screen time by turning off the wifi or providing another incentive to stop after an agreed time. If that agreement is broken restrict access for a period of time.
- Social networks have a minimum age restriction for a reason, usually 13 years old. Follow the guidelines which are in place for your children's safety. If your child is already on social networks, use the privacy settings on offer and turn off locations on apps like Facebook and Instagram.
- Be careful what pictures or videos you upload of your children and ask them to exercise the same caution. Once a picture is shared online it cannot be taken back.
- Explain to your child that they should only add people they know and trust to friends/followers lists online. If talking to strangers they should keep their personal information safe and location hidden.
Bullying should always be taken seriously. If you think your child is being bullied, don't panic. Explain that your child is not to blame for the bullying and that you will sort it out together.
I have compiled a list of resources and techniques to help your child if you think he's being bullied online, which is available on the blog at http://www.lifestylemaven.co.uk/cyberbullying-a-parents-guide-to-prevention/
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