Undoubtedly, the internet is one of, if not the, great innovation of the modern age. It’s completely reinvented the way we live our lives, providing us with millions of pages of information that can be called upon in a second. It’s also completely changed how we communicate, allowing us to deliver instantaneous messages and even to see each other when we talk. It’s even changed how we shop and do business.
The internet has made life faster and simpler, which many see as beneficial. However, like with any innovation, risks will always accompany the benefits. With the changes in the way we communicate, the internet has brought about a new phenomenon – cyberbullying.
The bullying prevention charity, Beatbullying, has reported that as many as one in three young people in the UK have been a victim of some kind of cyberbullying. This form of bullying can be especially traumatic to a child, since it can happen wherever they have access to the internet – and if your child has a smartphone with an internet connection, then essentially that can mean anywhere.
The best way to prevent cyberbullying becoming a problem is to be in the know. This way you can read the signs, or even better, speak to your child so they know that if they ever become a victim, they must speak out.
Forms of cyberbullying
The internet has opened up so many new forms of communication that the potential range for cyberbullying by direct contact is quite wide. Luckily, bullies are in the minority. However, the perceived anonymity could draw in individuals who would never act in these ways in real life.
A common place for cyberbullying is on social networking sites. Cyberbullying can entail posting offensive messages on a child’s Facebook ‘wall’ or could take place by private message. The good thing about this is that, if the bully has used their own account, there will be a trail back to them. Though, some might make fake accounts or find other ways of remaining anonymous, which can make identification a little more difficult.
Another place cyberbullying is common is in chat rooms. Chat rooms exist on the internet and as downloadable applications, they even exist in video games that your children play online. In all of these cases, there is the potential danger of your child receiving abusive messages, either anonymously or from people known to them. In a game room, your child might be ignored or blocked from playing games, which could have an effect on their self-confidence.
More seriously, bullies could make fake accounts for your child and essentially pretend to be them. This can get them in trouble or cause fractures in their friendships. They could also share images, or mobile phone or webcam images, that your child doesn’t want online.
What can I do?
The key to preventing cyberbullying is to ensure that, if your child does become a victim, they talk about it. You want them to speak to you and to their teachers before things become worse. The worst thing is for your child to feel isolated and alone.
There is plenty of helpful, expert advice online. Network providers, such as Vodafone, have dedicated themselves to providing their customers with information about cyberbullying. There are also a great number of charities out there with lots of very good information on the best ways you can protect your child, such as stopcyberbullying.org and the NSPCC.