We all know or at the very least are aware of the dangers that smart phones pose to our children, it may seem easier just to ban them but that’s not a practical solution. They are not under our direct supervision every hour of every day. Thus they have lots of opportunities to get online, so it is up to us to navigate our loved ones and teach them how to use and be safe online, but most importantly build a relationship with our children to communicate with us should they have any negative experiences. This gives us, the parent the platform to assist and help them deal with any online bullying they may experience.
There are no decisive laws in existence that directly relate to online bullying and remember we are discussing children so it is worth keeping in mind they are minors. Cyberbullying is not just limited to children who have a reputation for behaving badly, and it has become a lot more common than what we think for various different reasons, such as peer pressure, jealousy, boredom, trying to be cool, judgmental and lack of parental involvement as things at home are difficult, like a marriage break up. So why is it happening? It can be a form of entertainment, a method to inject drama, power and sometimes the bully just does not see they are doing anything wrong and view it as a harmless joke. But what is consistent is the bully has a sense of invincibility because it is hard to get caught compared to the traditional bullying that was carried out on the school yard and in public view.
This modern day epidemic is not just a western world crisis it exists worldwide. It is growing in the U.S, Europe and India to name just a few countries. While our children are happy to chat on WhatsApp, Messenger, Snap Chat and post pictures on Instagram, we need to make them aware there also exists a dark side to social media. Unlike the old fashioned bullying where it ended once you got home, technology now brings it with the victim 24/7. It is scary knowing our children can be threatened, intimidated and picked on nonstop.
What is cyberbullying? It is when children use online technology to hurt other children. Essentially they are using the internet to hurt, embarrass and harass other children. This is done on purpose and typically ongoing. It can be carried out by a single person or a group of individuals posting hurtful things.
It is essential to point out that not all online arguments are cyberbullying. Kids will have conflicts with other kids online, whether it is teasing, jesting or just joking. Children tease because it can spark off a fun way to provoke a reaction in someone else, and they may want to give as good as they got while being teased themselves. Teasing can reinforce a relationship by showing closeness and affection with another child. While teasing can be used to strengthen a relationship, it can also be used to alienate, criticise, and embarrass another person, which may diminish the relationship. The affectionate interaction of teasing can turn confrontational when the child being teased is distressed by the teasing.
So how old are our children when they begin to go online? Children as young as three have access to the internet and most of our children spend more time socially online than we do! Television still remains the media of choice among young children, with kids aged 5 to 8 spending around 64 minutes watching television each day, a number which is even higher in the 2 to 4 year old age group. About 88% of teenagers have access to the internet from various different tools. As smartphone access has become more prevalent, a growing share of teens now report using the internet on a near-constant basis. Some 45% of teens say they use the internet “almost constantly,” a figure that has nearly doubled from the 24% who said this in the 2014-2015 survey. Another 44% say they go online several times a day, meaning roughly nine-in-ten teens go online at least multiple times per day.
So, how do we as parents prevent cyberbullying? We must educate our young ones and prepare them for life online. Explain what exactly cyberbullying is and discuss with them what to do if he or she experiences cyberbullying. Keep all lines of communication open and teach our children respect for others online. What can we control? Monitor or kids usage of technology, educate ourselves of what devices, apps and technology our kids are using. If your budget allow it, use a contract for your Childs phone. This way you can see and manage your Childs technology use.