It’s important to teach children that stranger danger applies to the internet as much as it does the real world. People online may not be who they say they are, and many will be of ill-intent. Children should never arrange to meet an online friend unless a trusted guardian accompanies them.
Unfortunately, it’s not just social media apps that are invasive of your privacy, it’s pretty much most apps on your phone. Not only should you ensure that you children turn off their location settings on their devices, but it’s something you should do on your own devices; especially if you’re posting pictures of your kids. Most apps will try to track and store your locations by default. Scarily, this also applies to your inbuilt Camera app, which (again, by default) will store the geographical data of any picture taken. This data can often be accessed by anyone looking at the picture from another device, ie. people who are looking at it after you’ve posted it on social media. To prevent this, you will need to go to launch your Settings app and turn off your Location Settings.
As it sounds, cyberbullying is any bullying that happens over the internet. It covers any written/visual abuse that is posted online publically, or sent privately (through email, text or direct message, also known as DM). Cyberbullying can also include the bully impersonating the victim, spreading harmful rumours/lies about them, excluding them from online social activity, or impersonating the victim online through a fake profile or other methods.
The intent is always to hurt and humiliate, and it is nothing short of sadistic. The psychological effects of cyberbullying can be devastating, and should be taken very seriously. Not dissimilar to the effects of bullying in real life, victims of cyberbullying can often feel embarrassed to be a victim, which can lead to them keeping these issues to themselves. They may even keep quiet about it out of fear of losing their devices, so it is imperative that, in no instance, ever blame your child for falling prey to a bully. It is extremely important that parents let their children know that their home is a safespace, and that they can be open and honest about their experiences and feelings with their family. Remain calm and supportive.
Your most pertinent step is to take action against the bully.
- Keep a record of the abusive comments. If your child wishes to delete them (which is a reasonable and healthy decision) make sure you first try to get a screengrab of the abuse for evidence.
- Report the abuser to Admin. If the bullying happened on social media, there will be options to file a report against them through the site on which it happened. Though the aim of this is to ideally have the bully banned from the platform, it’s worth knowing that the admin will quite likely do nothing. Social media platforms – especially the big two, Facebook and Twitter – are notorious for their dearth of responsibility when it comes to taking action against online harassment. Nonetheless, it is advised that you report abusers anyway. At best, the Admin will do their jobs, and at worse, you’ve done your best to log a record of the abuse. But you may wish to take more effective and immediate steps.
- Block the abuser. Sometimes the quickest and easiest way to get rid of an online troll is to simply block them. Accounts you have blocked cannot follow you, and you cannot follow an account you have blocked. A blocked account cannot see your posts, leave comments or your posts, or message you. They will not be notified that you have blocked them.
- Go to the police. Whether bullying is happening face to face or online, bullying is still harassment, and harassment is illegal. No one has to put up with it. While there is no specific legislation in Australia that specifically regards online bullying (yet), there are still existing laws police can use to arrest and charge perpetrators, certainly if someone’s made a direct threat. Police involvement is the main reason you should keep records of the bullying. Despite the apparent anonymity of some cyberbullies, police sometimes have ways to track them down.
Just as you and I were raised to be aware of the dangers around us, it’s just as easy for us to teach our children to be internet-safe. Like most aspects of parenting, it all boils down to honesty, empathy, communication and guidance. You can read more on the subject here.
If you or your child need immediate professional emotional support, don’t hesitate to call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.