Friday 21 March is the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence, a day that mental health and wellbeing organisation KidsMatter is using to encourage parents to regularly discuss online safety with their children, in a bid to win the fight against cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is particularly insidious because it is often done in secret, shared with a lot of people and difficult to remove. Research shows up to 17 per cent of children report being cyberbullied and, importantly, most children turn to their parents first with concerns about online safety.
KidsMatter psychologist Dr Lyn O’Grady says parents are best placed to educate their children about cyberbullying – which causes distress and can lead to loneliness, anxiety and depression – but warns that communication is just as important as setting boundaries.
“We know that technology is becoming an increasingly important part of children’s everyday lives. And while our instinct might be to protect them from it, and even take away their access to avoid problems, this approach won’t really equip kids in the long term,” said Dr O’Grady.
“Communication is one of the best ways to help children be safe online, now and into the future. It’s really important they feel that they can tell someone if they feel uncomfortable or are worried about things like cyberbullying, rather than staying quiet for fear their devices will be removed.
“The strategy that will work best for us as parents includes having an awareness of the issues, finding ways to talk regularly with children, listening to what they think, and working with them to get a balance between safe technology use and other things like spending time outdoors.”
To help prevent cyberbullying, KidsMatter encourages parents to:
1. Communicate with your children. Communication continues to be the key to a successful relationship. It helps you learn about what’s happening in your children’s lives and address any concerns such as cyberbullying.
2. Talk to your kids about what they’re doing online. Children benefit from assertive parents who actively monitor their technology use. Just like in the face-to-face world, the younger the child, the more supervision they require in the digital world.
3. Reinforce your values. Think about the digital world as an extension of the face-to-face world and encourage your children to match their offline values with their online behaviour.
4. Keep up-to-date with current programs and apps. Choose programs and apps that look good and use them with your children. Talk to your child’s school and other parents about what they are doing.
For more information about cybersafety, go to www.kidsmatter.edu.au/families/enewsletter