How parents can help prevent cyberbullying

How parents can help prevent cyberbullying
According to reports, one in five young people under the age of 18 have experienced online bullying in any one year.

While schools have anti-bullying programs in place, their effectiveness often stops outside the school gate, where the ubiquitous presence of social media takes over and a new set of challenges emerge.

However, according to Professor Marilyn Campbell from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), a world-expert on cyberbullying, parents can play a significant role in making sure their children don’t fall victim to cyberbullying.

“While schools obviously have a role to play, we need to ensure parents are playing an active role in dealing with cyberbullying,” Campbell said.

“Most cyberbullying is initiated outside of the school, so we need to make sure parents know how to respond – whether their child is being bullied or, in fact, is the bully.”

While the policing of cyberbullying is seen as an area for schools and teachers to manage, Campbell says parents shouldn’t pass on the responsibility for seeing that their children are safe in digital environments.

“Parents are their children’s first teachers, and they are the people supplying their children with the technology,” Campbell said.

“Both of those factors add up to parents having a very important role to play – they can’t just say ‘This is something for schools to deal with,’ and wash their hands of it.”

However, Campbell acknowledges that this can be a difficult space to navigate.
“Appropriate online relationships are just like appropriate offline relationships – they thrive on respect and empathy, despite the fact that they are being conducted behind the veil of online anonymity,” Campbell said.

“Parents need to make sure they are teaching their children how to conduct those kinds of relationships.”

As for tackling bullying within schools, the concept of “bully audits” is taking shape as a possible solution.

Audits give students the opportunity to identify perpetrators without the bullies knowing who flagged them. The process involves students either writing down or being interviewed privately about who has bullied them or their friends, and how.

Meetings are then called with the parents of the alleged bullies as the school works closely with the students to change their behaviour.

SA Primary Principals Association (SAPPA) acting president, Julie Hayes, runs similar audits at her school, Cowandilla Primary, but annually using interviews with samples of students.

“Until we hold a mirror to behaviour, sometimes kids don’t even recognise their behaviour as bullying. I think it’s a highly effective strategy,” Hayes told The Advertiser.

“Kids care what their peers say about them.”

Related stories:
Six tips to counter cyberbullying
What happens when your cyberbullies are parents?