Most children aged 12 to 15 are already aware of what cyberbullying is, either from experiencing it themselves or by hearing about it. Although Facebook is the one social media network that all parents have heard of, it’s the smaller and lesser known sites like Ask.fm which have featured heavily in the Irish media recently. These sites are particularly dangerous as they allow anonymous posting and have been linked to some recent teen suicides. Here’s a post I wrote recently about the dangers of Ask.fm.
When your son or daughter becomes a teenager, he or she can now legally register to go on these sites. But are they really interested? Well, at their age, they want to conform and be accepted by their peers and if their friends are all doing it then they will want to too.
What can parents do to help prevent cyberbullying?
- Sit down and talk to your teenager about what’s okay and not okay to post. I don’t recommend forcing your teen to add you to their friend list on Facebook as this may well force them into creating a second pretend account (just to keep you happy).
- Explain that photos and posts that they think are private can be very quickly made public if they ever fall out with friends. Help them to understand that they have the power to take back control of their own ‘digital footprint’ which could otherwise have implications in the future.
- Talk to your teen about not falling into the trap of anonymous posting and maybe running the risk of becoming a bully themselves.
- Remind them that if they feel uncomfortable talking to you about any issue that they may be having with cyberbullying, they must talk to someone, be it a relation, a teacher, a friend or an organisation like hotline.ie. Following on from this, if your teen is ever confided in by a friend, they should understand that they should always tell you so that you can help take appropriate action.