What do you believe cyber bullying is?
Cyber bullying is any type of bullying where technology is used as the method of delivery. It is far more intrusive than traditional school bullying because it can occur anywhere and at anytime. Children can receive threatening text messages at any time of the day no matter where they are. They can have their social networking pages smeared with untruths. Other children can impersonate them on the web or by phone, with a view to humiliating them.
Are you concerned about cyber bullying?
I am definitely concerned. It is difficult enough for children, parents and schools to deal with traditional bullying, however cyber bullying takes these unacceptable behaviours into a realm where children are the experts and adults have some catching up to do. Everyone knows that if you are having a problem with your computer then you ask the youngest person in the room to fix it for you. In the same way children, preteens and teens are also expert at the new communication technologies. This means that cyber bullies have more time and space to perpetrate their threats before they can be brought to account. In turn this means that the victims are suffering longer before adults can catch up and do something about it.
How do you think cyber bullying affects people, in particular children?
It can be more potent than being bullied in the school yard, because not only can it follow you home, it comes into your house and your bedroom. Cyber bullying comes with you to sport on the weekends and to your grandmother's house for tea. The end results include anxiety, depression, school refusal, psychosomatic complaints (nausea, stomach-aches and headaches for which there is no medical reason), and at its worst suicidal thoughts, plans or completion. The effect on school results in naturally negative, with falling grades and lower motivation for school. The effect on family life is also observable with increased irritability, more time spent in the bedroom and in being reluctant to be involved in social occasions.
How can cyber bullying be stopped?
Children, preteens and teens need to be coached in how to behave online and on their phones. If they receive a threatening message then they must not reply and should not delete it from their phone or computer in order that it can be used as evidence. All protections need to be put in place to ensure that only those people you want to have your details are able to access them. Parents need to do their best to become familiar with all of the new technologies and latest versions of these. These change rapidly and require frequent revisits to ensure that they know which application their children are using and how to actually use it...and who better to give you a lesson than your own child! They usually enjoy the chance to show Mum and Dad that they know more than them. Other means of limiting the parts of your children's lives where the cyber bullying can get to them is to limit use of mobile phones and computers to the living areas of the house and that all devices are turned off at a certain time each night.
Who is responsible for managing cyber bullying issues?
In short, we all are. The child must take responsibility to behave safely online and to report bullying immediately to parents. Parents need to do their bit to have well coached children and to be up to date with the latest applications and devices. Schools can take action for bullying within the school context. In extreme cases where physical safety or life is threatened then the police need to become involved. Cyber bullying has the power to be more potent than traditional bullying, so it demands our attention. A little bit of time spent in coaching safe behaviours and in being up to date can prevent a lot of suffering, or worse, in the future.
Simon Andrews on behalf of Enough is Enough