Most parents of school-age children would be aware that cyberbullying is a very real – and prevalent – issue. Cyberbullying can be damaging and full-on, resulting in poor marks at school and low self-esteem, to anxiety, depression, and even self-harm, including suicide.
Parents need to know how their child is using technology and how they can help if cyberbullying becomes an issue by offering comfort, support and guidance. Parents need to be aware that their child may be reluctant to discuss cyberbullying for a variety of reasons: embarrassment, fear of reprisals, social stigma and not wanting to draw attention.
While those who experience cyberbullying often say they feel powerless to do anything about it, there are steps parents and school-age children can take to protect against it.
These steps include:
- Casually introduce cyberbullying as a topic of conversation such as over a family meal. Explore your child’s understanding and experience of it
- Ask an older sibling or close relative to talk to your school-age child about the best ways to stay safe online
- Discuss the need to keep any personal or sensitive information private rather than putting it on social media platforms, and encourage your child to develop critical thinking skills to achieve this
- Find out if your child’s school has any eSafety resources such as the Office of eSafety Commissioner’s YeS Project, a new program that will encourage Year 9 and 10 students to act as positive leaders in all their social spaces, especially online. This course will be available to download from mid-September.
Serious cyberbullying can be reported to various official channels. You can:
- Get in touch with whatever social media platform you are using such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and tell them of your cyberbullying experiences
- Gather any evidence you may have such as posts, and what has been said to your child
- Talk to your child’s school about the cyberbullying and ask what can be done
- Make a report. Serious cyberbullying can be reported to the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN)
- Lodge a complaint with the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. You can make a report anonymously; you will need to explain or show how the material is offensive or possibly illegal, and provide a URL or website to access the content.
Finally, parents also need to consider a less palatable scenario – what to do if they suspect their child is cyberbullying others. They need to stress that this form of bullying is never okay, while also sensitively exploring whether their child fully understands the consequences of their actions.
Seek professional guidance with our Western Sydney Family Referral Service. The FRS can help with advice and strategies to deal with cyber bullying and assists vulnerable families, young people and children to cope in difficult times. For more information follow this link.