As Mark Twain famously observed, everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.
Cyberbullying is a bit the same.
We hear a lot about the growing epidemic of online bullying in our schools. But practical strategies on exactly how parents can help? Not so much.
Yet by taking a few simple steps, mums and dads can do a great deal to reduce the risk. Here are some top tips from Family Zone cyber experts that can help you help them.
- Don’t allow devices in your child’s bedroom, full stop. This is the single most effective preventative measure mums and dads can take (but also - let’s be real - one of the toughest to enforce, especially for older kids).
- Educate yourself. Humble-bragging that you don’t have a clue about how Instagram or SnapChat work won’t help protect your child. Like it or not, social media is the water your kids swim in. Don’t sit on the sidelines - dive in.
- Build trust. When you set boundaries around screen-time, explain your reasons - and invite your kids to contribute their input. You want them to come to you first, if trouble arises. That’ll never happen if they see you as the digital enemy number one.
- Limit screen-time. Recent European research has shown that teens who spend more than two hours a day on social media are more likely to be bullied. It may sound simplistic, but the less time kids spend online, the lower their risk for pretty much every cyber-safety threat, bullying very much included.
- Don’t overreact. If your child is being bullied, don’t go ballistic and take devices away. That’s every kid’s worst fear - and when you think about it, it’s really a case of victim-blaming. (Why should they be punished for being targeted?) Instead, find out how long the bullying has been going on and reassure your child that you’ll work together to find a solution.
- Don’t underreact. Advice like “just ignore it” or “it’s no big deal” is both impractical and unfeeling. Your child’s place in her social world is a huge deal to her, and when that place is threatened the fallout can be extremely serious.
- Make sure your child knows not to respond to any bullying messages or comments, whether directed to himself or others, and to tell an adult immediately.
- Don’t delete bullying messages. Print or screenshot them for use as evidence.
- Do alert the school if the bullying is serious and ongoing. The school has a duty of care to keep students safe, both offline and online.
A comprehensive solution for managing family screen-time, Family Zone can be a powerful weapon in the fight against cyberbullying. Use Family Zone to manage access to games and apps, set bedtimes, restrict social media, block adult content, and more.