February 5 2019 is Safer Internet Day. Building on the leagues’ responsibility to keep its members safe in the lead up to The National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence (NDA) on Friday 15 March 2019, The South Metro Junior Football League (SMJFL) is pleased to offer this parental spotlight on addressing cyberbullying.
Many of us are familiar with the concept of bullying in one way or another, yet we seem to lack a shared understanding of what exactly constitutes bullying behaviour, especially in the context of online bullying. Despite the way it’s presented by the media, conventional face-to-face bullying is still more common than cyberbullying; though the two often occur simultaneously
According to Trudy Ludwig ‘What makes bullying different from the normal conflicts kids have with one another is the fact that bullying is comprised of the following key elements: the intent to harm; an imbalance of power; repeated aggression and/or the threat of further aggression.’
Not all hurtful behaviour is bullying and it’s helpful to understand the differences. Having a shared understanding of what bullying is and what it’s not within families, schools and the wider community helps having conversations, as well as prevention and intervention practices and programs.
Through a series of surveys the Cyberbullying Research Center found these cyber bullying statistics:
- Over 80% of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most popular form of technology and a common medium for cyber bullying
- About half of young people have experienced some form of cyberbullying, and 10 to 20% experience it regularly
- Mean, hurtful comments and spreading rumours are the most common type of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is quickly proving to be more insidious than conventional bullying due to a range of distinguishing characteristics:
- It has fewer limitations, insofar as the bully does not have to occupy the same physical space as their target
- Online bullying can take place at any time of day or night
- Cyberbullies can remain anonymous and are therefore harder for parents, teachers, or authorities to monitor and/or reprimand
- The offensive material generally has a much larger and more widespread audience, meaning it can be seen and spread easily and often
- Cruel or damaging content is hard to ever fully delete from the internet, giving it a sense of permanence
Having a conversation with your child about cyberbullying can be challenging; adults have coined the term and young people tend to use words like “drama” to refer to unpleasant online experiences.
Additionally, Australian researchers found that 90% of cyberbullying victims will actively avoid talking to an adult about their experience; either out of fear of reprisal or uncertainty about the identity of the bully (14). Therefore, parents need to be aware of any changes in their child’s behaviour that could indicate that they’ve been cyberbullied.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner provides examples of these behaviour changes together with guidance about how to report cyberbullying material to the social media platforms where it’s happening or if that is unsuccessful to the Office of eSafety.
Family Discussion Opportunities
- What are some of the ways people about your age tease each other online? What social media services can be used to do this?
- How can you tell if you’ve hurt someone’s feelings without meaning to?
- Is it easier to be hurtful towards others online than in person?
- Have you been in an online or offline situation where your message was misunderstood? Describe the situation and how you dealt with it.
Reflective Questions For Parents
- Do you have a clear idea of what bullying ears and what it isn’t? How is it different from being rude or mean?
- How concerned are you that your child could be cyberbullied? Have you ever thought your child could be the aggressor rather than the target? How would you know?
- What steps would you take if your child told you they were being bullied online?
Parents wanting more advice on addressing cyberbullying, cybersafety, internet, social media or gaming addiction amongst kids will find an excellent resource in “The Parents Survival Guide To Children, Technology & The Internet”. This book is available at https://www.parentssurvivalguide.net/ and is offered to SMJFL members with $5 off from 5th to 8th February 2019 by using the code SIDSOUTHS.
The Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner: www.esafety.gov.au
Kids Helpline Australia: www.kidshelpline.com.au