‘The safety talk’ for parents in this technology-advanced age does not only cover the birds and the bees, stranger danger and a breakdown of all the different emergency numbers, but should also include an ‘internet safety for children’ talk. This comes with the territory of raising tech-savvy little toddlers, pre-preschoolers and teenagers.
According to global cyber security company Kaspersky Lab, girls tend to spend their time on social networks and instant messaging, while boys tend to spend their time playing online games. The reality is that as technology and the internet evolves, it has become more difficult for parents to keep up, especially as you are busy juggling work, life, and everything in between.
What cyberbullying looks like
With cyberbullying being a reality, parents are encouraged to keep a close eye on their kids’ social media interactions. South African clinical psychologist Liane Lurie explains that cyberbullying is when an individual or a group express emotions or engage in conflict on cyberspace that they might otherwise not have the guts to do in public.
‘Within the boundary-less world of cyberspace, impulse control sometimes falls away. Users type messages and target insults without considering the full impact on the person they are targeting. Cyberbullying has become a negative by-product of the ever advancing digital age.’
Liane explains why it’s so important for parents to be observant, ‘One of the most worrying factors associated with bullying and cyberbullying is that the person or child being bullied typically conceal the fact. They develop shame associated with the bullying which may become too much to bear. The lies, rumours and sensationalist ideas created about them on the platforms have the potential to destroy not only their sense of self but their reputation too.’
Telltale signs that your child might be dealing with cyberbullying
- Social withdrawal – they don’t want to go out and engage with people or other children
- Depression – for more detailed information, head to The South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s website
- An inability to concentrate – they suddenly struggle to work through or tackle small tasks that are expected of them
- Extreme bouts of anxiety or even paranoia over what others may think of them
- Frequent complaints about headaches and stomach aches
- Sudden refusal and withdrawal from school and other activities they use to enjoy
‘Parents may witness extreme anxiety or apprehension in their children when they log onto or log off from any forms of social media. Their child may choose to hide their devices for fear of parents seeing what they are being subjected to,’ explains Liane.
Kaspersky Lab’s tips on how to keep your kids safe online
- It is important to have a sense of your child’s online community. Beyond just knowing what apps they are downloading on their devices, try to understand it – this goes for programmes required for school too.
- Discuss safe online behaviour often – apps, social media and the internet are a part of their daily lives and these talks should be too. Explain what safe online behaviour is, why it is important and how it can protect them from the dangers of the online world.
- Thoroughly unpack the concept of cyberbullying in a way your kids can understand before they are possibly affected by it. Outline what they can do if they find themselves in a cyberbullying situation, and emphasise that your home is a safe place for these experiences to be shared.
- It’s also important to teach your children not to bully other people online – take time to explain what bullying could look like and how that can make others feel.
- Try to put some rules in place like having your kids ask for permission before uploading an image or sharing a status update online. What your sons and daughters share online can affect their lives offline (and long-term), so this could be a good way to show them what’s appropriate to share.
- Encourage your children to only follow and allow people who they know personally to be their ‘friends’ on social media (and this shouldn’t only refer to Facebook).
- Download a security app for their devices and explain that like a house with an electric fence for protection, security apps are important and make sure that their personal information and identity are protected while online.
- Remind everyone in the home to never to follow links from unknown recipients as tempting offers can lead to infected pages – take time to let your parents know too.