“Let the police escort you home, because if they don’t , I’m going to escort you to your grave.”
This disturbing comment, made on video by a 16 year old girl living in Cape Town, South Africa, has spread like wildfire on social media. Even though the video was removed from social media platforms, the incident has left parents, children and teachers in shock. This video has shown just how vulnerable children are to cyberbullying and has left parents asking two tough questions: How can I protect my child from being cyber bullied and how can I make sure my child doesn’t become the cyberbully.
To answer these questions we’ve put together some guidelines, starting with:
What is cyberbullying?
According to kidshealth.org, cyberbullying refers only to bullying amongst young people and can be defined as “the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person.” This type of bullying typically involves sending hateful or threatening messages or videos via instant message, mobile chat, SMS or online platforms such as Facebook. Cyberbullies have also been known to take discriminating or embarrassing photos of their victims and circulate them via social media.
How can I protect my child against cyberbullies?
With cyberbullying statistics on the rise, it is so important for parents to understand how they can protect their children from online abuse. Here are some of our top tips:
As in any healthy relationship, it is important to have open and honest communication with your child. Set aside time to talk about the dangers and consequences of cyberbullying. Encourage your child to talk to you, or another trusted adult if they are experiencing any form of cyberbullying.
2. Be supportive
Don’t brush off the emotional impact that cyberbullying has on a child. Be supportive and understanding. Cyber bullying can lead to severe depression, anxiety, self-mutilation and suicidal thoughts in young children.
3. Get involved
Just as you would monitor your child’s whereabouts after school or during weekends, we suggest that you monitor their online activity. Become a follower on their social media platforms so that you can follow their online activity and be made aware of any misconduct or bullying that might be taking place online.
4. Teach your child
One of the most effective methods of handling the effects of cyberbullying on your children is to teach them how to handle being bullied. According to Common Sense Media, the first rule of thumb is to avoid responding: “Engaging with a bully only fuels the fire. Plus, any response could be circulated immediately.” From here, encourage your child to block the bully from further communication and to bring any proof of the bullying to you or another trusted adult.
How can I stop my child from being the bully?
As was the case of the 16 year old girl in Cape Town, the consequences of being the cyberbully should not be taken lightly. The girl was suspended from school and agreed to attend professional counselling. But what can parents do to make sure that it doesn’t go that far?
1. Have a discussion
Explain to your child that bullying is unacceptable and that the consequences of bullying another child can be detrimental not only to the child being bullied, but also the bully themselves. Be honest with your child about the dangers of being a bully i.e. it can tarnish their reputation and it can be considered a legal offense – with real life consequences. Encourage your child to be open about any cases where they have been the bully and ask them how they would feel if someone did those things to them or someone they loved.
2. Find out why
If your child has been involved in bullying, it is important for parents to address the reasons why. Be calm in your approach and try to find out if there are any underlying reasons i.e. have they been bullied by someone else? Are they stressed at school? Do they feel like they need to prove themselves? etc. Once you get to the bottom of the problem, use fair and reasonable consequences to discipline your child.
3. Monitor, monitor, monitor
As suggested above, monitor your child’s online activity. We also suggest that parents set restrictions and boundaries on their child’s use of technology. From creating no-tech zones, to setting times and places where technology is allowed. Both of these options will enable you to monitor your child’s activity in a safe and open environment.
The effects of cyberbullying can be detrimental for both the victim and the bully. It can happen at any time of the day and can easily go unnoticed, which is why it is so important for parents to understand the dangers and consequences associated with cyberbullying. At ParentsCorner, we believe that being an informed parent is vital to ensuring that your children are kept safe online. For more insight into our approach on cyberbullying, click here.