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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Cyberbullying: talk to your child about staying safe on computers and mobile phones

These days bullying doesn’t just happen in the playground. Cyberbullying – or bullying via digital technologies like mobile phones and computers – is a different threat to your child. It can be harder to spot and more difficult to manage than ‘traditional’ bullying. Understanding the dangers will help you support your child.

What's different about cyberbullying?

As with other forms of bullying, usually the bully intends to cause harm and carries out activiety over time. Cyberbullying is different to other forms of bullying because:

  • it can occur at any time of day, anywhere – the victim can even receive bullying messages or materials at home
  • the audience to the bullying can be large and reached very quickly and easily if messages are passed around or things are posted online
  • it can be unintentional – because they are not face to face, people may not think about the consequences of sending messages or images

Ways of cyberbullying

Some of the ways of cyberbullying can occur are through:

  • chat rooms, blogs and forums – although some of these are moderated, people involved in discussions can be sent abusive responses
  • text messaging – abusive and threatening texts can be sent to mobile phones
  • abusive or prank phone calls – these can be made to your child’s mobile phone
  • picture and video clip messaging – offensive images can be sent to mobile phones
  • email – new addresses can be set up in minutes and used to send offensive messages and images
  • social networking and personal websites (like Facebook or MySpace) – offensive or humiliating messages and images can be posted on these sites
  • identity theft – in many online environments fake profiles can be set up pretending to be someone else with the aim of bullying others
  • instant message services – quicker than email, these allow users to have 'real time' conversations, and offensive messages or content can be sent in this way
  • webcams – usually used to view each other when chatting online, children can also be sent abusive images or encouraged to act in an inappropriate way while being filmed
  • Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) – abusers can use the various forms of online software used by schools to enable staff and pupils to interact with each other to send offensive images and messages
  • video hosting sites (like YouTube) – children may find themselves the subject of films being shown or be accidentally exposed to pornographic images
  • gaming sites, consoles and virtual worlds – chatting is possible within many games, and name calling, abusive remarks and picking on particular players can occur

Minimising the risks of cyberbullying

As with other types of bullying it’s important for you to listen to your child and react with sympathy. Your child should know that bullying is always wrong and that seeking help is the right thing to do. 

It’s important for them to learn to respect and look after their friends onlineust as they would face to face. You should talk to your children  are talking to online. Try to guide them by discussing sensitively the issues around online friends. Negotiate and establish boundaries. You should also make sure you:

  • are aware that there are many ways children can go 'online', such as on a mobile phone or games console
  • encourage your children to talk to you or another adult about anything that’s upsetting them
  • watch out for them seeming upset after using a computer or their mobile phone
  • try to understand the ways in which they are using their digital technologies
  • ask them to think about how their actions affect other users
  • suggest that they avoid private chat rooms
  • encourage them to keep evidence of any abusive or offensive emails or messages they’ve received, and to show you or another trusted adult
  • help them report any abuse to their school, the internet service provider, the website manager/moderator, the mobile phone company or the police
  • tell them not to respond to any abusive messages or calls – this is frequently what the abuser wants
  • discuss keeping their passwords safe and avoiding giving personal information, such as their name or mobile phone number to people they do not know face to face
  • change email address or telephone number if the abuse continues
  • turn on in-built internet safety features and install computer software to ensure that you only receive emails from people you have chosen and to block unwanted images
  • tell them about places where they can go for help and support like CyberMentors, ChildLine and Childnet International

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