When I need to find something, what do I do? What do we all do? We Google it! We’re connected anywhere we go – mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop, smart TVs, Facebook notifications, emails, the list goes on! Technology has become a big part of our everyday lives. Just take a look at the crowds at any local shopping centre and see how many adults and teenagers are walking, heads down, looking at their phones.
With our reliance of social media in connecting with the world around us, outside negativity can creep right into our homes and gadgets. Especially cyberbullying. This form of bullying allows a bully to use the Internet to send or post images, text or video to intimidate, hurt, exclude, gossip or embarrass someone. Many teenagers think that cyberbullying is just a bit of fun – it can give them a sense of power. Because cyberbullies generally can’t see the reaction their actions are causing, they can harass much more than they would if they were saying or doing these things face to face.
While we can’t wrap teenagers up in a protective bubble from the world, we can teach them valuable strategies to support them to act wisely online. Here are some helpful tips:
We can all be glued to our phone, tablet or laptop for hours at a time. This may appear to be the norm, but it can be unhealthy to be fixated on devices for so long. It is important to set boundaries for your teenager around how much and at what times these devices might be turned off or not used. It may also be helpful to set an example for our teenagers about appropriate use – that means turning your own phone off at the dinner table!
Have a balanced life
Technology has allowed communication to expand to all areas of our lives – we are constantly connected to a digital world in one way or another. It is important to remember that cyberbullying is bullying through technology. As such, distancing ourselves or not being consumed in technology all the time is part of having a balanced life. Encourage your teenager to spend time doing other things they enjoy. Going for a run, relaxing at the beach, playing in sporting teams, hanging out with friends, playing music or being involved in a community group are great activities your teen may like doing. There are many things to enjoy in life outside of phones and tablets. Having a different focus or being in a different environment can go a long way to relieving stress.
It’s okay to ask for help
Teenagers need to feel comfortable that if something does happen online, they can come and talk to you, a teacher or someone they trust to get help. It can be worthwhile checking in with your teenager while they are online or using their mobile phone. If you notice that they are worried, seem anxious, appear more easily aggravated or aren’t sleeping, ask them if everything is okay. Give them the sense that you are available and there to support them if they do need to talk.
If someone does try to bully your teenager, they need to know that their first response may not be the best one. If they think retaliating or giving it back to the bully is the best way, then the cycle of bullying can keep going and the bully will be getting feedback that their actions are doing the damage they intended. One of the best things to do is take the power away from the bully.
Because cyberbullying is done over the Internet, in most cases, there is clear evidence that can be printed or saved for showing someone what is going on and getting help. Screenshots can be taken on most mobiles, tablets and computers. Teenagers need to know that they don’t have to hide or worry that nothing can be done about being bullied online.
Report the abuse
Keeping evidence of online bullying is important, especially if you decide it is best to seek help. If there are ever threats of physical harm made, then you can report the behaviour to your child’s school and relevant authorities. If the person bullying your child attends their school, it may be important to keep relevant staff informed. Most schools will have an anti-bullying policy and may be able to support your child through the problem. Your child may feel more comfortable speaking to school personnel with the support of an adult who they trust so that they do not feel alone in dealing with the issue and can draw from the maturity and wisdom of a trusted adult.
If your situation is life-threatening and time-critical, please call Triple Zero (000). Kids Helpline also provides free online and phone counselling for 5 – 25 year olds (1800 55 1800).
Cyberbullying is not okay. If your teenager needs help with dealing with cyberbullying and seems distressed or you notice changes in their behaviour or mood, it may be advisable to seek support from a trained professional. You can contact Kids At Max on 03 9702 4447 to make an appointment with our psychologist.
Written by Kids At Max – Teacher & Psychologist