Tween & Teen Advice

Cyberbullying – a difficult reality for parents to understand

  • Parenting Hub
  • Category Tween & Teen Advice

Do you know what your child is really doing when they are using their smartphone or tablet?

 

Most of us choose to believe that ‘everything is fine’ and your child is merely watching a movie or playing an innocent game. But, have you considered that maybe at the very moment your child is using their device, that someone may be bullying them through an online chat or social network?

 

While the Internet is a great tool for school work and connecting with friends and family, unfortunately there is another side, which, as parents, you need to pay attention to.

 

Cyberbullying is one of the unpleasant effects of hyper-socialisation, which the Internet as a whole – and social networks in particular – bring. For those who are not familiar with this phenomenon, cyberbullying refers to online communication with the intent to abuse or degrade – and unfortunately, this is often aimed at school going children.

 

Modern children and teenagers are deeply immersed in the virtual communications world, sometimes even deeper than adults. They take everything that happens to them online very seriously and they live their lives based on their online world connections. In contrast to adults, youngsters often have more fragile psychological defence mechanisms or none at all. Remember how many times in your life online conversations made you feel angry, abused, or upset. Imagine what your child feels when she or he faces something similar, but this is shared with the school through daily updates on a social platform – for everyone to see or comment on!

 

A big part of the problem today is that parents are rarely aware of cyberbullying that may be happening to their kids – as often kids don’t speak up about it.

 

So, as a concerned parent, what can you do to protect your kids from psychological traumas of cyberbullying? Kaspersky Lab provides some advice:

  • Firstly, be patient, it will take time. Like every serious issue in life, problems with cyberbullying can’t be solved in a couple of minutes – if this happens to your child, be aware of the fact that resolving the issue will take some time.
  • Don’t wait or hope that your child will come to you and tell you about the problem. As the parent, we recommend you should start this conversation – to ascertain if maybe there is a problem here that needs to be addressed. Each person has a right to privacy, but this is not a reason to neglect your child’s online activity. Learn what your children do on social networks, which platforms they use and who their friends are online. For a start, look to add them to your friends list in every social network in which you both have accounts.
  • Talk to your children about cyberbullying – explain to them they should come to you if/when they face this problem. Ensure they understand that cyberbullying is a commonly encountered problem today and that it’s okay if they experience it, if they report it to you – you can help them resolve the issue.
  • Never use prohibition. Taking away a child’s phone or disconnecting their devices from the Internet won’t help. Actually, such prohibitions are what your child is afraid of and why they wouldn’t tell you about cyberbullying to begin with.
  • Talk to your children about basic online security and privacy steps. Show them how to change privacy settings on social networks to prevent strangers from seeing their private data, pictures, details etc.
  • To protect your child as efficiently as possible, you can also look to use parental control applications.

 

The digital age we live in is not going anywhere. Rather technologies will continue to evolve and this means that your child will likely evolve with them. Considering this, and the expansion of social media it has become important that parents are aware of what their children are doing online and to educate their children about cyberbullying – to ensure they can come to you as well as do not engage in this activity themselves.

 

The online environment can be potentially harmful, but if you take the time to speak to your children and educate them, it does become an easier place to navigate.

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