June 21st is Stand Up To Bullying Day, an international day to encourage people to take a stand against bullying.
Cyberbullying is something that many of us didn't encounter when we were young, but with children using the internet on a daily basis, it's something all parents need to be aware of.
Not-for-profit organisation Internet Matters is urging parents to #Pledge2Talk with their children about cyberbullying – with research showing one-in-five children have been subjected to cruel comments online.
Nearly seven out of 10* (68%) said their top concern on the issue was their children being targeted over their physical appearance, followed by popularity (52%) and sexism (26%).
The survey conducted on behalf of Internet Matters found 10% more boys had been bullied over their body image than girls (17.4% versus 15.7%) – reinforcing that boys are under just as much pressure to look good online.
Meanwhile the average age the child began to be bullied over their physical appearance was just 11. Overall, 65% of parents said they were most concerned about their children being bullied via social media compared to 46% face-to-face.
Being bullied over social media appeared to be a bigger concern for parents of girls than boys, with online gaming more of a concern for parents of boys than girls.
Supported by BT, the Internet Matters website has a wealth of advice about e-safety issues facing children today.
Internet Matters has created a hard-hitting video about cyberbullying which you can check out below.
Psychologist Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, said that victims of cyberbullying can find it hard to open up to their parents.
“Sometimes children don’t want to talk about what is happening to them online. They may feel helpless or worry their parents will take away their phones or ban them from using tech. But it’s vital that parents learn how to engage with their children in a positive and reassuring way to open a dialogue channel which youngsters can feel reassured, not intimidated by.”
Lisa is a parent whose 12-year-old daughter Lily began self-harming and eventually attempted suicide after being cyberbullied for two years.
“I now check Lily’s phone on a nightly basis, and ensure that any potentially derogatory messages are quickly dealt with. My biggest regret is not pushing Lily to talk openly with us, and that we left her unsupervised on the Internet.
“I think it’s essential that we do everything we can to educate parents and caregivers. Our children can’t always talk to us, so it’s important that parents know the signs to look out for, and what steps we can take to keep our children safe.”
Carolyn Bunting, general manager of Internet Matters, said:“Connecting with friends on social media and online is a positive and empowering thing for a child, but they should feel comfortable talking to their parents, teachers or other trusted adult when that online chat crosses the line and becomes cruel or abusive."
What to do if your child is being cyberbullied
- Talk about it – find the right time to approach you child if you think they’re being bullied
- Show your support – be calm and considered and tell them how you’ll help them get through it
- Don’t stop them going online – taking away their devices or restricting usage might make things worse and make your child feel more isolated
- Help them to deal with it themselves – if it’s among school friends, and if they feel they can, advise them to tell the person how it made them feel and ask to take any comments or pictures down
- Don’t retaliate – getting angry won’t help, advise your child not to respond to abusive messages and leave conversations if they’re uncomfortable
- Block the bullies – if the messages are repeated block and report the sender to the social network or gaming platform
- Keep the evidence – take screenshots in case you need them later as proof of what’s happened
- Don’t deal with it alone – talk to friends for support and if necessary your child’s school who will have an anti-bullying policy
Internet Matters has worked with leading experts and the Anti-Bullying Alliance to create guides for parents, which you can check out at: www.internetmatters.org/issues/cyberbullying/
*Survey of 2,000 parents with children aged 9-16 by Ginger Research on behalf of Internet Matters – May 2017