Mon. Jul 13th, 2020

Cyber bullying: how to protect your child from online abuse

Cyber bullying: how to protect your child from online abuse

When Chelsea* helped her 11-year-old daughter open an Instagram account six months ago – purely so she could keep in touch with her auntie living overseas – she had no idea what was in store.

The problems began during the coronavirus lockdown, when her Grade 6 daughter logged on to see what her friends were up to, only to find one of the girls tearing her apart.

One in five young Australians have been cyber bullied.

One in five young Australians have been cyber bullied.Credit:iStock

“She went on Instagram Live to talk about how much she hates my daughter and why she hates her,” says Chelsea.

“And my daughter’s sitting there watching it. I could just see in her face that something had happened, she was so upset.

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“The same girl hacked her account and was messaging people as my daughter to create drama – nasty messages, so would say stuff like ‘you’re rude and horrible and I hate you’.”

There were also nasty voice messages and notes in class. The bully even hacked into her TikTok account and removed followers.

Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, says one in five young Australians have been cyber bullied, and in the first few weeks of lockdown, there was an initial spike.

A common bullying taunt among boys – ‘Why don’t you just go kill yourself’ (or GKY for short) turned into ‘Go get coronavirus and die’, Inman Grant says.

So if you’re a parent, how can you protect your child from potential cyber bullying in the future?

Inman Grant says while bullying has been around forever, cyber bullying is more invasive and pervasive, following young people around in their pockets and into their bedrooms.

To combat that, she recommends only allowing your children to socialise online if they’re in an open area of the house. “You can see what they’re doing – you can see if their attitude or mood is changing.” Time limits should also be set.

Overnight, phones should be left to charge in a parent’s bedroom. Other strategies are to avoid responding to a bully’s messages by blocking, reporting or muting them.

If the bullying seriously escalates, and social media companies won’t help, the eSafety Commissioner can step in. Ensure you collect evidence, for instance by taking screenshots.

ReachOut CEO Ashley de Silva says if your child confides in you that they’re being bullied, listen and empathise in a calm way, and try not to make them feel like a victim.

“Understand from their perspective some of the complexities of how it’s playing out,” he says.

“Don’t jump straight to trying to iron it out, because the best thing you can do is actually build on the fact there’s a conversation happening and then ideally work together around the steps you might take to resolve it.”

Parents should also try to get to grips with the various social media platforms and their features, including privacy settings, and teach them about respectful behaviour both offline and online, he says.

In Chelsea’s instance, she eventually decided to approach the school – with her daughter’s permission.

“I said ‘I’m going to tell the teachers, is that OK with you?’ I didn’t want to lose that trust with her.”

Chelsea says the school has been incredibly supportive. The bully received an in-school suspension and had her phone confiscated for the year.

“I just thought I had to deal with it (the bullying),” says Chelsea. “But when I bought it to the teacher’s attention she said ‘no, we’re dealing with this now, let’s hit it’. I wished I had brought it up sooner.”

* Names have been changed

For more tips on dealing with cyber bullying, visit the eSafety Commissioner’s website or ReachOut

Young people can also contact the free, 24-hour phone and online counselling service at Kids Helpline or on 1800 551 800

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Published at Thu, 25 Jun 2020 17:08:00 +0000

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