Good behaviour is something every parent tries to encourage in their child, but it’s becoming more of a challenge. After all, it’s not just the real world we have to worry about these days, but the virtual one with 11% of 15-16 year olds experiencing cyberbullying.*

With the internet now a major part of almost everyone’s lives, using it responsibly is just as important as using it safely. That’s particularly important when it comes to online communication - and doubly so when children are involved.

November 14-18 is Anti-Bullying Week, coordinated by the Anti-Bullying Alliance in partnership with Internet Matters to raise awareness of real life and virtual bullying.

With the theme ‘Power for Good’ the aim this year is for people of all ages to stand up and take action collectively and as individuals using their ‘Power for Good’ to prevent bullying, and for parents and teachers to create a safe environment for children.

The Anti-Bullying alliance has a list of anti-bullying tips which parents and carers can download, along with an interactive tool to answer questions.

It’s really important for parents to encourage their children to be a good digital citizens and use their Power for Good. Here are tips which you should talk to them about.

Boy and girl using laptop

Tip 1: Treat others how you would like to be treated

In short, if you don’t like being on the receiving end of rude behaviour or unkind remarks, then there’s no reason to assume anyone else does – so don’t treat them that way.

Tip 2: If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online

It’s easy to be rude to someone when you’re hiding behind a screen name, but would you behave in the same way if you were face-to-face with the other person?

Tip 3: Be careful with exclamation marks and smileys

Someone who doesn’t understand what you’re saying might think you’re try to shout or laugh at them when you do use exclamation marks even if they’re a friend. 

Tip 4: Don’t make a situation worse by provoking people

An innocent comment can be taken the wrong way online. So if someone gets angry about something you’ve said, for reasons you don’t understand, try not to get angry with them in return. Simply apologising for not being clearer usually calms things down – but be prepared to just step away from the keyboard if the other person doesn’t seem to understand.

Tip 5: Don’t start rumours or spread gossip about someone online

Information can spread very quickly online, which means gossip and rumours can soon get out of hand. If nothing else, remember that anything you say online can often be easily traced back to you.

Tip 6: Don’t make fun of someone in an online chat

You have no idea how someone on the other side of a computer screen might be feeling, or if they understand that you’re joking. So anything you say could be seen as bullying — even if that’s the opposite of what you intended.

Tip 7: Post things that will inspire and motivate people

Everyone likes to be told good things about themselves, so try to say something positive about the things other people do and say online, rather than something negative.

Tip 8: Don’t create a negative environment with name-calling

It’s easy to mock someone when they’re not as good at an online game as you, but that usually just encourages other players to do the same. Even if you’re not being serious about it, it can still make someone feel like they’re being bullied, so try not to do it.

Tip 9: Don’t leave people out on purpose

You probably wouldn’t like it if your friends arranged to do something together in real life without telling you and it’s no different on the internet. So don’t miss anyone out of your online plans on purpose — it can hurt their feelings.

Tip 10: Remember that anything posted online usually can’t be deleted

One good way to decide if you should share something online is think how you’d feel if your mum or dad saw it, too — no matter how old you are. After all, if it’s online, there’s a chance, however small, that they will.

Tip 11: Respect other people’s privacy

Sharing something secret online about someone is as bad as it gets. Not only have you broken their trust in you, but you’ve potentially told the world about it.

Tip 12: Don’t bombard people with messages

Just because a friend doesn’t respond immediately to your text or Facebook message doesn’t mean they’re ignoring you – they might just be busy doing something else. So don’t keep sending messages to try to force them to reply – they might think you’re harassing them.

For a comprehensive and easy to use resource of the most up-to-date information for keeping your child safe online, check out Internet Matters.

*2015 Department of Education