Cyber-bullying

Online Safety and Cyber-Bullying Tips For Parents

With our kids glued to their laptops (or smartphones, or tablets…), it’s hard for parents to know exactly what they’re doing online.

Even more troubling, recent statistics from Telstra show that 52% of young people regret posts they have made online, and 82% did not realise the long-term impact of their posts. And now that the new school year has started, the challenge for parents to protect their kids from cyber bullying has never been more important.

Telstra’s Manager of Cyber Safety, Shelly Gorr, said that today’s culture of online sharing has changed society’s notions of privacy forever and that it is important to equip children with tools and advice to participate in the digital world safely.

“Ongoing conversations with your children about cyber safety essentials such as when to share personal information online, handling approaches from cyberbullies and applying social network privacy settings could avoid a lot of regret in the future,” said Ms Gorr.

Rosie Thomas, the cofounder of anti-bullying and leadership organisation Project Rockit, said the Telstra research shows that children heading into the schoolyard armed with digital devices should be empowered to stand up for themselves and others online.

“Social media and the internet is an awesome place for breaking down social barriers and harnessing people power to do the right thing. We need to give young people the tools to make the most of everything the internet offers, including the strength to stand up and be leaders in both the online and offline worlds,” said Ms Thomas.

Here’s how to deal with online safety and cyber-buylling without alienating your kids:

1. Talk with your kids about their digital lives and let your children know you’re always there for them.

2. Protect personal information – teach your children how to turn on privacy settings.

3. Encourage children to ‘think before they click’, to think about content and the consequences of posting it.

4. Be an offline supporter. Encourage kids to have some screen-free time each day and turn off devices at bedtime.

5. Teach kids to treat others the same way they’d like to be treated online and be zero-tolerant to rude or mean online behaviour.

6. Don’t just talk about the right thing to do; be a role model with your own digital habits.

Have you spoken to your kids about online safety and cyber-bullying? 

February 4, 2014

Teaching Teenagers Cyber Safety

Today’s teens live their struggles, mood swings and relationship crushes under the glare of their social media connections. Teen popularity contests have extended beyond lunchtime gatherings and now include online ‘likes’, questions and comments. When all of your friends are on Facebook and run ask.fm question sessions, could you miss out on these ways of communicating with your peers? Having no access to social media poses a fate worst that death for most teens – isolation, at a time they are the most desperate to fit in and be accepted.

As a parent, you want to protect your children from the risks of being online. You hear enough stories of online sexual predators, cyber bullying and teen suicides to warrant blocking some websites until your kids are at least 21. Unfortunately, bubble wrap is not a long term solution, for any scary stage of their lives. You need to equip your kids with the skills to become great adults, but that’s a delicate balancing act with their still immature teen brains. So, what’s the answer? Here are some strategies for keeping your teens safe online.

Age appropriate
The minimum age for an account on Ask.FM or Facebook is 13, but no proof of age is required. Within minutes of creating a fake email account, your kids can be signed up to social media too. At 13, you’d never let a stranger take photos of them or ask them questions, so enforce this online too. If it’s not appropriate for them in real life, it’s not appropriate online either.

Parental controls
You’d be careful about what movies they watched, so parental control settings are an effective way of blocking some of the stronger objectionable materials online. Start with any settings built-in to their computer, phone or tablet and add third-party software if you think it’s needed. Some parental controls can even block websites etc on a time schedule, so they can get in some online homework time before being distracted by Facebook.

Privacy
Facebook privacy settings are different for 13-17-year-olds and change to standard adult settings once they turn 18. As confusing as they seem, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the privacy settings in any of your child’s social media accounts, ensuring they are set as tightly as possible. Because it’s not your account, the privacy laws will prevent you from getting Facebook to delete inappropriate photos of your child. On their smartphones, try the AVG PrivacyFix app which will make setting change recommendations in plain English. For younger teens, know their account passwords to reinforce that online access is a privilege, not a right and it’s still your job to know what’s going on in their lives.

My house, my online rules
When they get a social media account, set some house rules. These can include: real life friends & family only as connections online, no posting personal details (including school name, home suburb etc), parents are friend connections too. Set consequences for breaking the rules and spot-check them occasionally.  To retain some form of family time and to curb any online obsession, set a curfew for electronic devices prior to bedtime (including the parents’ phones too!) and don’t allow technology to be charged in bedrooms. It’s better for them to have a cheap alarm clock than to find out they were on Facebook at 1am.

Educate yourself
Don’t put cyber safety in the too hard basket. There are numerous resources online to help parents and teens with cyber safety and cyber bulling. Do some searching and see what you can find. Check with your local school for any resources they use or any presentations you could attend. As technology evolves, parents need to keep up with the latest trends, research and advice. Share what you’ve learnt with other parents and involve your school if you pick up on concerning chatter within your child’s peer group.

The points above still seem very controlling but with young teenagers they still need a high level of protection. As they get older, they are going to want more freedom and control of their own, so you have to keep the lines of communication open. Talk to your teen about what’s going on it their world. Talk to them about teen suicide headlines. Talk about what they’ve seen and heard online. This will be the hardest thing in this article to achieve, as teenagers are not always known for disclosing every detail of their lives. But it’s also the most important.

Talking gives you the opportunity for ‘how would you handle that’ discussions.  It reinforces that you do have their back when they are feeling hurt or upset by something they read or saw online. It helps you sow into their lives positive words that they are good enough, they are valuable, they are unique and that they are unconditionally loved.  The sad, common truth in the latest cyber bullying suicides is that the parents had no idea their kids were being subjected to online. Don’t let your parental guard down for the sake of their privacy.

How do you tach your teenage kids about cyber safety?

Sonia Cuff blogs about technology at Off the Cuff.

October 15, 2013