Today (June 20, 2014) is Stop Cyberbullying Day (http://www.cybersmile.org/stop-cyberbullying-day), a chance for all of us to voice our opposition to online bullying. It’s a day when everyone who cares about cyberbullying and online hate campaigns can join the growing movement for action against this kind of abuse. Anyone can get involved – even if it’s just by posting a tweet using the hashtag #STOPCYBERBULLYINGDAY.
Bullying isn’t new, of course. But technology has made it easier than ever before for bullies to attack the vulnerable. And the culture of widespread over-sharing on social networks that has become the norm in society today has unwittingly thrown fuel on the fire.
It’s important that we talk to our children about cyberbullying. If you’re a parent of a child who is on the receiving end, remind them that they’re not alone. It’s a problem faced by lots of other children; and is one that some of their idols have suffered too – Miley Cyrus, Cheryl Cole, Demi Lovato, Kim Kardashian and many others have all spoken out about their experiences.
If you’re a parent, our checklist of top tips for keeping your children safe might be useful.
1. Talk to your children about the potential dangers.
2. Encourage them to talk to you about their online experience and, in particular, anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Protecting children from cyberbullies is especially challenging with smartphones, as they can be targeted in so many ways, especially out of view of their parents. Deal with cyberbullying as you would deal with bullying in real life: encourage children to be open and talk to a trusted adult if they receive any threatening or inappropriate messages. Numbers and contacts on apps can both be blocked if they are making children uncomfortable or unhappy.
3. Set clear ground rules about what they can and can’t do online and explain why you have put them in place. You should review these as your child gets older.
4. Use parental control software to establish the framework for what’s acceptable – how much time (and when) they can spend online, what content should be blocked, what types of activity should be blocked (chat rooms, forums, and so on). Parental control filters can be configured for different computer profiles, allowing you to customize the filters for different children.
5. Don’t forget to make use of settings provided by your ISP, device manufacturer and mobile phone network provider. For example most phones allow you to prevent in-app purchases, so you can avoid them running up hefty bills when they play games.
6. Protect the computer using Internet security software.
7. Don’t forget about your children’s smartphones – these are sophisticated computers, not just phones. Most smartphones come with parental controls and security software providers may offer apps to filter out inappropriate content, senders of nuisance SMS messages, etc.
8. Make use of the wealth of great advice available on the Internet – including CEOP’s thinkuknow (http://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/) website.
Do you have comments or experiences you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.