In keeping with this week’s theme for Anti – Bullying Week. Here is my article on Cyber Bullying to give you some ideas to keep your children safe online in this new world of instant technology.
1.2 billion instant messages were sent over the AOL network alone on September 11th 2001
This is the “Always On” generation as 74% of connected young people use instant messaging several times a week according to the Pew Report. Everything talks to everything and kids can send things in a heartbeat from their phone, computer or hand held device.
Mobile phones play a big part in many young people’s lives. They have loads of different uses– from chatting and swapping messaging with friends, to surfing the web and taking pictures. They are also useful as your kids can stay in touch with their friends as well as enable you to stay in close contact with them when they are out and about.
But with this technology comes a new problem and form of bullying known as – cyber bullying.
And the downside to this is that text bullies can use mobiles to get to your kids at any time.
So what can you do as a parent to protect your kids?
Here are some tips to teach your children to prevent text bullying:
1. Always tell someone you trust what’s happening. Teach your kids to talk to you, a teacher, a carer or a friend so they will be able to find a way to stop what’s happening.
2. If they receive a nasty message teach them to keep a record and to save the messages– it’s actually against the law to make a threatening or offensive call, or to send a text or e-mail that’s really abusive or threatening. If it’s online on a message board teach your child to save a copy or print it off. The internet provider (ISP) will have a helpline to get rid of the message for you. This will all help the police or school to get to the bottom of the issue quicker.
3. Never reply to the bully or send an even nastier message back. Often bullies will send a message to get a reaction so tell your kids not to respond to it. Bullies often get bored and stop if they don’t get a response.
4. Take a break from your phone or computer. It’s a good idea to encourage your kids to take a break for a few days from their phone messaging and to keep off chat rooms for awhile as the bully will soon get tired and bored and stop.
5. Make sure only good friends and family are in your phone address or e-mail list. Teach your kids to not to respond to an ID that they don’t recognise and to only add people they know to their address books.
6. Don’t lend your phone to other people. Encourage your children to be careful if they lend their phone to someone or change their phone number and make sure they never give out their number in an internet chat room.
7. Change your phone number. If your child starts to get bullied they can go to their service provider and they can help by changing their phone number very easily.
8. Camera phones. Here are a few things you need to know about camera phones and might like to discuss with your children:
• It’s not possible to withhold a number when sending a photo from a mobile, so any photo your kids send or receive can be traced.
• A photo can be forwarded to other people or posted on the internet. So a picture sent to a small group of your friends might end up being seen by millions of people all over the world.
• A picture could contain something that could help someone find out more about you. Clues to personal information can often be found in the background or can appear by accident.
• Some people might try to take pictures in inappropriate situations or places, such as at the swimming pool or in the cloakrooms at school or at the beach. Talk to your kids about what they should do if they think they’ve spotted something and feel worried about it.
• Discuss what they should do if they receive a photo or a video that shows someone being hit or hurt in some other way. Taking pictures or filming someone being attacked can be illegal and is a very serious offence. It is also illegal to send this sort of photo or video clip to another person.
9. Staying safe online with a mobile. Some of the newer mobile phones, including Bluetooth and WiFi enabled phones, can be plugged into computers and used to download pictures and other files. Many phones are also able to access the internet. This means that, like a computer, a mobile can be used to look at websites or take part in chat room conversations. It can also be used to send and receive emails. This can be very handy. But it also worth remembering that if your child is thinking about posting a picture of themselves, it is important to consider the type of picture and the kind of attention it might attract. Also for them to be aware that photos can easily be copied, changed and used elsewhere, and can potentially stay online for ever.
10. Receiving a malicious call –
• If your child receives a malicious call, put the phone down and ignore it for a few minutes before hanging up. This wastes the caller’s time and money and can put them off. If their phone rings again, teach them to not say anything when they answer it. A genuine caller will speak first.
• If they have a Bluetooth phone, they may receive unwanted messages from other Bluetooth users who are nearby. If they think they’ve been sent a message from someone they don’t know, it’s best not to accept it.
• Remember that your child can reject a call if they don’t recognise the number that comes upon their handset or if the number has been withheld.
10. Talk to your children, teach them safety tips and try to understand the technology, their lifestyle and their problems. It’s important as a parent that you understand the new technology and don’t just put your head in the sand, but with a little bit of common sense you can ensure your child is kept safe from bullying. (It’s also not a good idea to immediately take your child’s phone away from them if they are bullied, unless they ask you to, as your child might feel that you are punishing them for someone else’s wrong doing.)
It’s also important not to panic because for many young people using a mobile phone teaches them responsibility and independence and of course, a phone is really useful in emergencies.
Helplines. If your child is uncomfortable talking to you or wants to remain anonymous or needs some support or clarity there are a number of helplines that can offer free advice.
Sue Atkins is a Parenting Expert who offers practical guidance for bringing up happy, confident, well behaved children. She is also the author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the famous black and yellow series published worldwide and the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs. She regularly appears on BBC Breakfast and The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and her parenting articles are published all over the world.
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Sue Atkins the Parenting Expert
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