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Our experts' guide to identifying and managing cyberbullying.
ySafe Digital Parenting - Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is the use of online communication tools to menace, harass, offend or intimidate others. It can range from abusive text messages, impersonations, spreading gossip or rumors, or even ostracising others from participating in group activities.
The impact of online bullying is serious and, in some cases, can even be life-threatening. Addressing cyberbullying directly and frequently within our homes is absolutely vital for the well-being of our kids. It’s not always easy, but that should never deter you from trying.
Cyberbullying behaviors often correlate with a child’s first access to social media and games. Negative online behaviors such as cyberbullying generally increase at around ten years of age and decrease in frequency and intensity from 16 years onwards.
13 and 14-year-olds tend to be most vulnerable to cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying has evolved significantly over the years from mean and nasty comments to a greater variety of negative online behaviors. It now includes online activities such as impersonation (setting up an account pretending to be someone else), roasting (which includes teasing others and is often seen in online gaming situations), screenshotting (making copies of someone’s texts without permission), or polling (putting up a survey, for example, ‘Who’s the ugliest girl at our school?’ for others to do). Exclusion from online chats and groups is also very common and has recently been coined ‘cyberostracism.’
Cyberbullying can occur on any platform, including social media, gaming platforms, and general internet websites. As parents, we need to be vigilant and prepared for when things happen to our kids.
Here are our three top insights direct from ySafe's leading cyber safety experts.
Research shows us that children are unlikely to tell their parents if they are being cyberbullied because they fear their response will be to stop them from using technology or a particular platform.
Red flags include changes in behavior, sleep disruption, agitation, or withdrawal. Kids often become more fixated on their devices, as they want to know if anyone is making the situation worse or sticking up for them.
It seems simple, but because most young people fear that you’re going to overreact or take their technology away, you need to make it clear to your children that this won’t happen if they talk to you and that you’ll help them work through it together.
If your child is being cyberbullied, here are the steps we recommend you take:
Taking a screenshot of the cyberbullying content is important ‘evidence’ that will be needed when reporting the incident to the platform or the school. In extreme cases, you may also consider taking this evidence to your local police. Ensure in all cases, however, that you do not screenshot, save or share anything that could be considered an intimate image.
There is a direct correlation between how long a cyberbullying post is up online and how much distress a child will feel due to the increased exposure. It’s essential that the content is removed as soon as possible to decrease the chance of the content being shared. To remove cyberbullying content, you can either report it directly to the platform or to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. You can find more information about reporting here.
Many kids don't tell their parents about cyberbullying because they fear their parents will interfere and try to 'fix it' but will end up making things worse. Instead, ask your child what they would like you to do to help them. Doing this will provide a great opportunity for you to find a solution together by offering options and sharing a conversation about the best course of action to take. It will help your child feel empowered as you're solving the issues 'with' them, not 'for' them.
To stop the cyberbullying from happening again, it may be a good idea to consider blocking the cyberbully from accessing your child's profile. Sit with your child and decide how to do this together. All social media and gaming platforms have options to block or restrict engagement from other users; however, in some circumstances, your child may not want to block a particular person, often for social reasons. Refer to Step 3 for help with other solutions.
If you can't resolve the issue through the steps above, or you feel that a resolution to the situation needs to be escalated, it's a good idea to seek the advice of an appropriate staff member from your child's school. Schools are generally a fantastic resource for cyberbullying information and support. We do not recommend speaking to the parent of the cyberbully without consulting the school first.
How to report online safety issues.
With a teenager’s social life becoming more and more immersed in the digital world, online conflict between peers is bound to happen.
Setting up social media accounts for the purpose of maliciously impersonating another is not a new concept.