Managing Online Safety

Social Media is here to stay. On average, adolescents aged 10 – 14 years have 2 social media accounts and spend around 23 hours online each week. A shocking 36% of these adolescents talk to strangers online, 21% are socially excluded and 9% are exposed to inappropriate content. Whilst this is worrying for many parents who often know less than their children about online use, there are solutions.

Understanding the online world enables you to teach your child the rules. It also allows you to set clear boundaries. Trust-building, education and communication are key online safety strategies to facilitate open discussion and prevent harm.

What is cyber-bullying?

Cyber-bullying uses electronic types of communication. These may be text messages, email or social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. This type of bullying can be anonymous and posted online where it can be seen by lots of people.

Unlike face-to-face bullying, cyber-bullying can go on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so people don’t get a rest from it. It can also be hidden or ‘covert’ (for example, deliberately excluding others, sending or posting pictures and spreading rumours about someone behind their back). This type of cyber-bullying can be much harder to identify.

Signs of cyber-bullying

Consider cyber-bullying if you notice signs such as:

  • significant changes in your child’s behaviour, personality or mood (including withdrawal)
  • excessive/secret online use
  • changes in school performance
  • school refusal

These signs may be indicative of your child feeling afraid, isolated, ashamed, angry or powerless and your recognition of this can be greatly reassuring that action can be taken. This can mitigate lasting effects on a young person’s mental health and well-being.

What can you do?

The first step in helping your child navigate the online world safely is to know what devices, apps and accounts they have. Be sure to check the privacy settings on each of these and monitor any changes or updates that might be released. To stay on top of these updates, create your own social media accounts and have your child as a friend/follower. Teach your child how to protect their identity.

If you do notice signs that your child may be experiencing cyberbullying, talk to them. From there, speak to teachers, parents of friends and others involved with your child. Contact the School Counsellors for support (both for yourself and your child) and then contact the Police if indicated.

There are many options for help. The following resources specifically address cyber-bullying and include information about making a complaint. These resources are recommended for parents and children:

Judy Vidulich, Head of Counselling