Parent Corner: Cyberbullying
This week, millions of parents around the world will kiss their kids goodbye and send them off to school. Then they’ll spend the rest of the day wondering what their children are experiencing. Will they make new friends? Reconnect with old ones? Will they like their new teacher or new school?
So much happens to our school age children that we’re not privy to, and many kids have a hard time or are not inclined to share the daily minutae with their parents when they come home. So we worry that everything is ok, and for most kids, it is.
But for the not insignificant percentage that experience bullying, it’s an entirely different story. And in an age where many of our kids are sporting mobile devices, and are online every chance they get, there’s a new face to bullying that my generation simply didn’t experience as children.
"Cyberbullying" occurs when a minor is targeted by another minor, in an embarrassing, threatening or harassing way, using cell phones, the internet or other digital technologies.
It’s part of a broader collection of concerns parents share about the safety of our children online. Such an important issue that UNICEF recently produced a report, Child Safety Online: Global Challenges and Strategies. And though we worry more about abuse perpetrated by adults, for obvious reasons, the reality is that a great deal more of our children experience cyberbullying.
A recent study for the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reported that a full one in five students experienced cyberbullying in the past year. Interestingly, cyber-bullying is much more common among girls, with 28 per cent of girls reporting being targeted, compared to just 15 per cent of boys.
The good news is, if you’re worried about it, you’re going to pay more attention to what your kids are doing online – the single most important thing you can do. Learn more about where they hang out online and what they do there. Talk to your kids about who they’re texting and who’s texting them.
Most importantly, listen carefully to what your children are saying. Maintain a trusting relationship with your child, particularly regarding the role technology plays in their social life. Seek to understand, not to judge.
Educate yourself about what cyberbullying looks like and what to do about it. In addition to UNICEF’s report there are many other sources online with detailed info on what parents can do to help prevent and to help respond to cyberbullying.
And don’t worry too much… if you care, you’re halfway there.