Cyberbullying is the use of technology to bully a person or group with the intent to hurt them socially, psychologically or even physically.
Your child or young person may receive harmful and negative digital communications on one of many different online platforms – on any device they may use, and it could come as a text, pxt, chat, email, voice message etc. What is important to understand is that this is disturbing for most young people and can be emotionally harmful.
It is really useful to talk to your child about this challenge as soon as they start communicating online. Most children and young people will post their own work and ideas online and the feedback they get online may be mean and overly critical from time to time. It may not be personal at all but your child can be adversely affected. They need to be prepared for the likely negativity as well as the support.
Harmful Digital Communications
There are many ways that young people use digital communications to bully and harass others:
- Sending abusive texts or emails.
- Posting negative or inappropriate messages or images on social media sites.
- Taking and sharing private images, including sexual images.
- Forming bullying groups on social media sites.
- Assuming the identity of a target online and then representing them in a negative way to cause them distress.
Ideally, no young person would have to suffer harm as a result of these kinds of communications. While this may not be realistic, there are steps you can take to help reduce the impact should it occur;
- Have regular conversations with your child to ensure they understand privacy settings, about over sharing, about the potential to “loose control” of something once it is posted online.
- Get alongside them online and let them teach you about what they are interested in.
- Set boundaries around online use, help them manage their time.
- Talk about the challenges they may come across (link)?
- Talk to them about values – your family values apply as much online as they do offline.
Some young people are already very resilient and not phased by this negativity and others can be seriously affected.
- My child has told me that they are upset by what has been said to them online – what can I do?
- I’ve found disturbing comments on my child’s device sent to them what can I do?
- Someone has told me that my child is being cyberbullied – what can I do?
- Firstly it is important to be supportive and not over react. Young people can and do use bad language and posts can be quite derogatory.
- Parents or caregivers sometimes get involved in the harmful conversations. While the motivation for this is totally understandable, it is unlikely to be helpful. Avoid getting involved directly if you can.
- Be calm and supportive. It is great that your child or young person could tell you, it means they trust you and together you will work out what needs to be done.
- Some young people will prefer to ignore the comments and fear escalation by reporting or that contacting the person will make the situation worse. Listen to your child and their concerns.
- Discuss the possible avenues to be taken. You may want to call NetSafe 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723) to gather more information.
- It can be useful to get the abusive content removed quickly (after taking screen shots in case evidence is needed) so do report through the reporting system of the site that hosts the content. Most sites will have a “Report Abuse” button or “Safety” link.
- If they can, “block” future messages from the person sending through the harmful content. Remember to take screenshots of any bullying messages sent first so that they can be used as evidence should this be required for any investigation.
- If the abuse and harassment is from a student or students at the same school, talk with the school’s senior management team. They may be able to provide further support or facilitate discussion between those involved and their families.
- Remember that young people make mistakes and do dumb things sometimes, they need support from family and their close friends and may benefit from talking with their school counsellor.