In today’s world with the near constant use of technology by most people in the UK, there are some incredible benefits to be had like ease of access, convenience and speed. But, there are also the pitfalls that are all too apparent like abuse, fraud and cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying can happen to anyone, adults and children.
Cyberbullying is the act of bullying someone using online platforms such as social media, chat rooms, apps or gaming sites. It can also be done using smartphones and tablets. It is all too of a common occurrence which can lead adults and children to feel unsafe online.
The online world is meant to be a place where people can learn new things, have fun and connect with others. Not a place to feel scared or unsafe.
What types of cyberbullying is there?
Cyberbullying comes in many forms, all are illegal and if you are a victim of any of the following, the perpetrator could potentially be tried as a criminal under UK law.
Denigration. Sending of fake information about a person that is damaging and untrue. This can also include sharing of photos to ridicule someone or to spread rumours and gossip.
Harassment. Sending offensive, rude, insulting and abusive messages. This can also include posting nasty or humiliating comments on social media sites, chat rooms, gaming sites and online posts.
Flaming. Purposely using offensive and extreme language and getting into online arguments and fights. Purposely causing a reaction whilst enjoying the fact that it is distressing someone.
Impersonation. Hacking into someone’s email or social media account and using their online identity to send of post embarrassing or cruel material. This also includes making fake accounts to cause humiliation and distress.
Outing & Trickery. When someone shares personal information about someone else or tricks someone into giving them revealing secrets and then forwards to others. This can also include private images and videos too.
Exclusion. By purposely leaving someone out of online groups, messages and online events.
Cyber Stalking. When someone sends someone repeated messages that include threats of harassment, harm, intimidating messages or engages in other online activity that makes an individual feel afraid or scared for their safety. This can also be punishable by the UK law.
What harm does cyberbullying do?
Much the same as ‘normal’ bullying or ‘offline’ bullying, cyberbullying can have a detrimental effect on children’s mental health and self-esteem. This can be after the first time someone is subject to online bullying or can be over long period time of being bullied.
Children who have been subject to bullying or cyberbullying:
- May develop mental health problems like anxiety or depression.
- May become wary and suspicious of others.
- May have issues adjusting to school and fall behind others.
- May not be accepted by others at school.
- May result in having fewer friends.
Every child is at risk of bullying both online and in person. People are bullied are usually singled out because a bully will find something different about them, whether it is true or not. It has been reported that children face bullying most commonly because of their sexual orientation, gender or their ethnicity.
How common is cyberbullying?
The latest figures on people affected by cyberbullying are quite staggering!
- One in five children aged between 10 and 15 have experienced some sort of cyberbullying.
- Out of 13,000 UK students aged 12-18, 27% of them identified their bullying experience as cyberbullying.
- Up to 70% of children who have experience cyberbullying say that the bullies are at school with them.
- Swearing, name calling and insults were the most common experienced by children affected by cyberbullying.
- Only 58% of children who have experienced cyberbullying were satisfied how their school dealt with it.
These figures show us that there is a long way to go to stop cyberbullying a precent children from falling foul of it.
Though there are some cases where it is very difficult to stop acts of cyberbullying, regardless how small they are, there are some very effective ways of keeping your child safe when online.
How do I keep my children safe online?
This is a big question that many, many parents, guardians and teachers are asking on a daily basis as new cases of cyberbullying are recorded each day. There are thankfully some things that you can do to keep your child safe, things you talk to your children about and ways to report to the authorities if you think something is wrong with online activity.
According to the NSPCC there are a few ways to keep your child safe online, they suggest to:
Talk to your child. It may be a difficult talk to have but, it will benefit you and your child if you have an open and frank discussion about online safety, safety when it comes to chat rooms and messaging, safety about internet searches and about websites that are inappropriate for younger audiences, you can help to keep them safe. Also let them know that it is ok to tell someone if they think they are being bullied online, no incident is too small.
Set parental controls. These are the settings you can apply to control what content your children see online. These can be set to protect your child from inappropriate content, grooming and cyberbullying. It is easy to do and can help to prevent exposing your child to content which is not suitable for them.
Report online abuse. Along with doing everything you can to protect your child or educate them in online safety, if you believe that your child has been contacted by someone inappropriately or has viewed something that is unsuitable for children should have been blocked out by parental controls, you can report it to ensure it doesn’t happen again. By reporting incidents like this, you can help to make the internet a safer place for everyone.
If you believe your child is being subjected to cyberbullying, you can also keep them safe with advice given by the government on preventing and tackling bullying.
Other advice on keeping your child safe online, been offered by governments from around the world, also include:
Knowing who your children’s online friends are.
Knowing what your child shares online and educating them on what is appropriate to share.
Keep screens and devices where you can see them.
Teach your child above location privacy.
Keep track of how much time is spent online.
Obviously, all of these ways are not 100% going to work, but you can minimise the risk your child faces online by using the advice.
What should I do if I think my child is being bullied online?
If you believe your child is the victim of cyberbullying or abuse, start by speaking with them to see if they are comfortable talking about it. They key to helping is listening to them and keeping calm.
Don’t encourage any form of retaliation, this will likely make things worse for your child, a lot of the time children will know their bully and telling them to retaliate can increase the problem.
Encourage your child to get involved in activities offline and with friends in person. This could give them the welcome break they need away from any potential abuse which they may feel trapped by.
Report it to the appropriate authority. If you have cause to believe that your child is subject to being bullied or abused, report it. You will help to stop the person or people doing it, you will help your child so they don’t receive any more abuse and you could potentially be helping many other children who could be falling victim to online abuse or bullying.
What is being done to support children who are being cyberbullied?
There are many children’s charities, organisations and groups out there who are helping children who have either been cyberbullied, at risk of it or at risk of online abuse.
Those who are helping children and young people who have been bullied online offer counselling, online safety workshops, emotional support, practical online support, services that provide a way to report any online behaviour which is illegal or abusive and ways to ensure that children are kept safe online.
There is always help for children who are in need and who are victim to bulling, both online and offline. The best thing to do to help your child is to educate them about the dangers of using the internet and being as transparent as possible with them whilst asking that they are transparent with you as well.