It’s the start of Anti-Bullying Week across the country, an action coordinated by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, of which this year’s theme is “Make a Noise about Bullying”. With that in mind, we thought we would mark the week, which runs from November 16th– 20th, by making some noise of our own about how to protect your child from cyber bullying.
The rise in smartphone use amongst young people has undoubtedly made it easier for this generation to build up relationships with their peers. However the anonymity that comes with interacting online has unfortunately led to a rise in cyber bullying, something that can come in many forms, from nasty social media messages, to threatening calls texts, and even silent calls. But it is possible for your child to enjoy the benefits of technology and stay safe at the same time. We’ve shared some tips below:
- Ensure social profiles are secure
Most conversations about cyber bullying seem to feature the word Facebook somewhere along the line, so it makes sense to check the privacy settings of your child’s account, as well as ensuring they don’t have their address or phone number available on their page. It’s also a good idea to make sure location settings are turned off. Within Twitter, it’s worth keeping an eye on which accounts they are following, and also to advise against or limit their use of hashtags, as these could make their posts visible to strangers.
- Protect passwords
Another form of cyber bullying can come in the form of hacking, whether that’s to use your child’s device to impersonate them, or to use any information they gain access to as blackmail. Make sure your child updates their passwords regularly and keeps them safe, refraining from sharing them with friends or leaving them anywhere they could be easily accessed. Depending on the age of your child, you may wish to insist that you are aware of all their passwords, whether for social media accounts, email, or the pin code they use to unlock their phone.
- Know the signs
Just as with any other form of bullying, it’s good to be aware of the warning signs. If your child seems withdrawn or you notice a change in their mood, an unexplained drop in their grades or disturbed sleeping patterns, it’s worth having a chat. Be particularly vigilant of a sudden change of behaviour when they get a text or a call, especially if they are secretive about their device or are reluctant to let it out of their site or to give anyone else access.
- Block any record
In the unfortunate event that your child does become a victim of cyber bullying, your first course of action should be to block the bully’s email address and phone number, as well as delete them from any social media networks. Be careful not to delete any messages, emails or texts though, and keep a log of all activities, including calls, to use as evidence.
- Make a Noise
Whether it’s a joke that’s got out of hand, or something more serious, take your evidence and make sure you report it to your child’s school. Don’t be afraid to contact the police either, if you feel the situation warrants it. You may also find it helpful to get it contact with various organisations like the Anti-bullying Alliance, Kidscape or Cybersmile for extra advice.