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Finding the best way to deal with cyberbullying

By Sheree Hoddinett

Mobile phones, computers, televisions, iPads, gaming devices, there are so many aspects in our lives today that revolve around technology. There’s no denying we rely on it heavily, for work purposes, everyday life and of course, for entertainment purposes. As a mum of two young children slowly making their way into the world of technology, I do worry about the chances of them being bullied online. In fact as a parent, I worry about them being bullied in general. As we all know kids, well people really, can be quite mean. It’s an unfortunate side effect of human nature. We can teach our kids to be kind, not to talk to strangers, not to listen to the mean things people say to them, but inevitably these things still happen.

From TikTok to Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and even games (Minecraft and Roblox just to name a couple), whichever platform is their go to, if your child is active online, chances are they may encounter cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is the online version of traditional bullying – a misuse of power to cause intentional and repeated harm. It can take many forms, including sending threatening texts, exclusion and intimidation, or harassing by sharing images, texts and videos without consent and with the intent to humiliate. It can be open and obvious or covert and hidden. Cyberbullying is most commonly done through social media. While social media is a great way to keep in touch with friends, how easy it is to use and access means that cyberbullying on social media can be common.

Cyberbullying can be even more distressing because of its very public and uncontrollable nature. Why? Because there’s no limit to who can view or take part in cyberbullying; it can be very difficult to remove content shared online; it can be anonymous and content can be accessed through search engines. It’s hard for people to escape the bullying, especially if they use technology in their everyday lives and let’s face it, technology is very much ingrained in our lives now, it’s not often we escape it.

It’s estimated only one in 10 young people actually inform a parent or trusted adult of cyberbullying. Some reasons for this low number include embarrassment, fear of not being believed, fear of having the issue trivialised, or worst of all losing access to technology.

We can tell our kids not to talk to strangers, both in person and online, but ultimately we can’t control every little thing they do and we certainly can’t stop bullying from happening. The best we can do, or at least try to do, is equip them with the necessary tools to deal with the situations they may find themselves confronted with. Make sure your child knows it's not their fault, they're not alone and that there are ways to deal with cyberbullying.

  • Ensure that if they have them, your child’s social media accounts have privacy settings switched on and that they only accept friend requests from people they know in real life.

  • Chat to your kids about the importance of not sharing their personal information with anyone online. Especially things like passwords, their full name, address, phone number and what school they go to.

  • Remind them to ignore messages from people they don’t know. The internet can be a great place to make new friends, but it is still super important to be extra cautious due to fake accounts and trolls.

  • Make sure they know that cyberbullying is wrong and they shouldn’t do it.

  • Ensure that your child knows how to block, delete or report anyone who is upsetting them online.

Taking positive steps to educate your child about what they can do about cyberbullying can be a good way to ensure they come to you for support when they need it the most. 

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