Online activities have changed the dynamics of parenting. Parents feel the added responsibility of teaching their children responsible and savvy ways of being online. The possibility of cyberbullying is particularly worrying.
Cyberbullying is the use of online and electronic communication to tease, humiliate and disparage. It can embarrass, deprecate and defame children and teens at a time when their need for peer acceptance is at a premium. It can happen to anyone at any time and without provocation.
Many children who experience cyberbullying won’t tell you. They may be too embarrassed, afraid adult involvement will make the situation worse or afraid their digital privileges will be curtailed. The key is to nurture the positive aspects of social media, educate kids on the dangers of being online, and build their trust by understanding their needs and situation.
Always be alert to changes in your child’s behavior. You know your child best and if you suspect anything unusual then it’s important to talk and try to find out what’s going on.
It can help for parents to understand the tactics which online bullies use. The ‘Help for Parents’ page of our website has links to articles with details but, briefly, common tactics include:
- Flame/Troll: deliberately provoke arguments and rile others in online spaces
- Exclude: deliberately not invite teens to an online space, repeatedly delete comments
- Outing: make privately shared information public. Very hurtful in the case of sexuality.
- Phishing: trick someone to reveal personal information with lies and deceptive messages
- Harassment: repeatedly send hurtful personal messages often urging to harm themselves
- Imping, Catfishing: impersonate the victim online via false profiles and say embarrassing, lewd or mean things
- Image abuse: passing around humiliating photos of the victim without permission
If you think your child is being cyberbullied or if you’re looking for help to educate yourself and your child on responsible and safe use of the internet and social media, there are some very good resources to help.
All of Canberra’s public libraries are now ‘eSafe spaces’, where you can ask library staff for help and support about keeping safe online. The staff have been trained to assist children affected by cyberbullying and refer them to relevant resources and authorities.
The Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner has excellent parent resources and information about keeping your kids safe online and assessing your current knowledge and household online habits (www.esafety.gov.au). Their ‘Rewrite Your Story’ site empowers teens, with great videos to help start a conversation about cyberbullying. ‘Young & eSafe’ helps young people counter online hate with advice and resources developed by young people, including stories, short films and expert advice. The ‘Image-based abuse portal’ provides tangible support and advice to those who have had intimate images or videos shared without their consent. The Office is also well worth following on Facebook or Twitter for their tips, reminders and up to date advice on new Apps and issues.
Parent info sessions
P&Cs can host a ‘thinkUknow’ cybersafety session for parents at their school. This informative and practical program is run by the Australian Federal Police in conjunction with several tech firms. Book a session by trained presenters at www.thinkuknow.org.au.
The Internet and social media are important to young people and can add real value to their lives if we can just find ways of keeping them safe at the same time.
This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 2, 2018.