Cyber-bullying is when a person is the victim of a deliberate and persistent harassment or abuse using technology. An isolated incident of unkindness or upsetting someone accidently using technology isn’t really cyber-bullying in it’s truest sense. Cyberbullying is a particularly toxic type of bullying as it doesn’t stay in school and stop when the child gets home, it invades the safety of the home and can happen at any hour of any day, during the holidays and anywhere around the world. Some examples of cyber-bullying include:

· excluding a child from online games, activities or friendship groups

· sending threatening, upsetting or abusive messages

· creating and sharing embarrassing or malicious images or videos

· ‘trolling’ – sending menacing or upsetting messages on social networks, chat rooms or online games

· voting for or against someone in an abusive poll

· setting up hate sites or groups about a particular child

· encouraging young people to self-harm

· creating fake accounts, hijacking or stealing online identities to embarrass a young person or cause trouble using their name.

The use of technology can be addictive. The getting a message or other reward at random times stimulates the same part of the brain as gambling. Many children also have a fear of missing out. To be excluded from knowing something or being part of something can be especially hard for children who want to be liked and included. Friendship can be a bit of a currency at schools and a sign of status. Simply turning a device off would help stop cyber-bullying but in the modern world devices are all around us.

According to a survey conducted earlier this year, girls are nearly twice as likely to be a victim or a perpetrator. By the time a young person is 20 years old 69% will have been abusive to someone else online. This means that if a child hasn’t bullied someone or been bullied they will know someone who has. Cyberbullying shouldn’t have to be part of the way children grow up

What can be done to keep children safe online?

Children shouldn’t be left to fend for their selves in the real world until they have been taught the necessary skills. The same is right for the digital world. Be proactive in teaching a child about the risks of technology and internet communications. Create a safe place, be open and talk about different scenarios and what can be done to resolve them. Create an environment where it is ok to learn from mistakes. A child who fears being shamed is less likely to own up if they think they have made a mistake. Both victims and perpetrators may feel they have made mistakes and feel shame. Help nurture emotional resilience by giving a child the confidence to talk about how it makes them feel. Reinforce that it is ok to block & report cyber-bullies and give perspective that cyberbullying isn’t an acceptable part of growing up.

See Internetmatters.org & NSPCC.org.uk for more advice & information.

Written by Wilstock News

August 2021
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