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Cyberbullying … what can parents do?

How to know if your child is being bullied onlineThe internet … I love it. I love it so much that I’d marry it and have little internet babies – the funny kind that rollerskate and bite their brother’s finger.

But sometimes I hate it. For all it’s positive contributions to modern life there are many negatives, some with devastating consequences. The internet didn’t invent banking or ‘liking’ your friend’s photos or chatting about the TV show you’re watching. It also didn’t invent pornography, scams or bullying. The internet just made all these things easier to do or easier to access.

And I sure wouldn’t want to be a kid these days …

I was bullied in school, as I’m sure many of you were. It wasn’t something that happened all through my schooling and it was rather mild in comparision to some of the horrific stories I’ve heard. But basically a group of girls who were my friends one day, turned on me the next. They told lies about me, publicly excluded me from activities and called me names. I can’t say that it didn’t hurt at the time but when that bell rang each day I was able to leave my troubles in the school playground.

When I returned home I was safe – wrapped up in the security blanket that is a loving extended family and a neighbourhood full of non-school friends. The bullies couldn’t reach me when I was in my bedroom reading or our in the living room watching TV after dinner. Home was my santuary.

Kids don’t have a safe place any more.

The bullies come into their home at night – with messages of hate sent via social networking. The bullies disturb them with nasty text messages while they visit their grandparents. There’s no escape – kids are literally carrying around the bullying in their pockets.

This has to stop. And there are things that we, as parents, can do to help. Here are some tips from Bullying No Way!:

3 things parents can do to help prevent cyberbullying

1. Educate yourself on what cyberbullying means

Bullying is repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological behaviour that is harmful and involves the misuse of power by an individual or group towards one or more persons. Cyberbullying is bullying that is carried out via the internet or mobile phone technology. Cyber-bulling can take the form of: insulting or threatening text messages, publishing embarrassing or private information online and creating hate sites or online campaigns of exclusion.

2. Recognise the signs of cyber-bullying

The signs of bullying are: not wanting to go to school, has no friends, anxiety, mood swings, drop in school performance and changes in sleeping patterns. On top of these, signs particular to cyber-bullying include: anxiety about going online or receiving text messages, being upset after computer use, receiving suspicious emails or text and spending longer online.

3. Talk to your children about cyber-safety and cyber-responsibility

Teach your kids a lesson from Spider-Man … “with great power comes great responsibility”. We really are exploring new territory here and this generation of teens and children will be the first who’ve never known a internet-less world. It is up to us to teach them how to navigate the online world so they’ll grow up to become responsible and respectful online citizens. The Australian Government’s eSafety Commissioner has heaps of tips on how to go about this.

So how else can we help stop bullying?

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