With cyber bullying on the up, Counselling Directory provide some practical advice to help parents ensure their children stay safe online.
What are the risks?
Just like learning to walk and talk, ‘logging on’ to the World Wide Web has now become an inevitable step in the path to growing up. According to a recent study carried out earlier this year, the average age at which a parent allows their child to start using the Internet is just three, with a third failing to put any restrictions on web use .
While this early start may provide a platform for learning and development at this young age, the flipside is that the age at which children are being exposed to potentially harmful online behaviour is creeping down bit by bit.
Cyber bullying is a form of bullying that takes place online across multiple platforms. From popular social media websites through to chat rooms and role-playing games – these open websites provide a way for bullies to engage in vicious behaviour whilst remaining anonymous.
What do the statistics tell us?
According to research compiled by online resource Counselling Directory, 78% and 13% of parents admitted that their child has either full or partial access to the Internet respectively, and 57% are set to buy their children electronic gifts providing access to the web this Christmas.
When the same survey asked if to their knowledge, their child had experienced any incidents of cyber/online bullying, 35% of parents said yes (with the true percentage likely to be higher).
So, with these figures in mind, what measures can be taken in order to ensure the safety of young children and teenagers when they go about their online business?
Internet safety tips
Parents with children and teenagers who regularly use the Internet should arm them with the following information to reduce the chances of online victimisation:
Never share personal information online. This includes name, telephone number, school, home or workplace address.
Do not share personal photographs over the Internet.
Never reveal any passwords online.
If a physical meeting is being arranged between two people who met online, this should be done in a public location with an accompanying friend or family member.
Taking action against cyber bullying
If a parent, family member or friend suspect that a child may have become a victim of cyber bullying, the following advice may be of use:
Do not respond to the perpetrator.
Where possible, block the bullies from messaging and emailing. Internet service providers should be able to provide assistance on how to do this.
Stay offline unless entirely necessary.
If the abuse is extremely serious and threats are made, contact local police and take legal action.
Keep records of all contact so that this can be used as evidence if needed.
Inform the website administrator – most social networks now provide a way to report such issues.
Open up to a friend, family member or professional counsellor about the situation. Just talking is likely to provide a huge sense of relief.
In instances where the emotional and psychological impact of bullying has already begun to set in, additional emotional support such as counselling could be of benefit. A counsellor or psychotherapist who is experienced in this particular area will be able to employ a specialist set of techniques which could help victims to break out of the bully-victim cycle to allow a way forward.
For further help and information, please see the Counselling Directory How to stay safe online fact-sheet.
Counselling Directory – Bullying fact-sheet
1 Results taken from a survey of 24 parents visiting Counselling Directory between November and December 2013.