“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” – Mark Twain

It is incredible how much more true this quote is today than it was back in Twain’s era. Social media and digital technology have made this an infallible truth.

Increasingly, we hear about the presence of cyberbullying – an unfortunate and nasty side effect that comes from technology changing how we operate socially in the world. Similar to normal bullying, it is the youngest and most vulnerable of us that gets hit the hardest.

The statistics don’t lie, cyberbullying has:

  • been witnessed by 87% of today’s youth. A staggering 70% claim they see it regularly
  • affected nearly 43% of kids online – 1 in 4 say that this has happened more than once
  •  been carried out by 15% of students
  •  it has a heavy consequence on the mental wellbeing of its victims – thoughts as serious as suicide are 2 to 9 times more likely.

So what can we do? Tell our kids to stay off social media? Hide them away from the changes occurring within our societies? Monitor everything they do and receive on their phones or computers?

No. None of these will work and none of these will promote resilience in our kids’ developing minds. Instead, it is our duty as parents, as educators and as guardians to properly inform our kids on how they should behave on social media.

Do

  • Let your kids know that they can and should talk to someone they can trust – be it parent, teacher, caregiver or friend.
  • Report the abuse to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) if the bullying happened online.
  • Report the abuse to your mobile phone provider if the bullying happened via texts or calls to their mobile.
  • Teach your kids how to block messages and emails across whichever platforms they are receiving the abuse.
  • Report serious bullying such as physical or sexual threats to the police. It does not matter if it comes from an anonymous source; there are ways the police can investigate where these messages originated.

Don’t

  • Delete the messages or emails. Keep the evidence, as they may be required at a later date.
  • NEVER REPLY! This is what the bully wants and it could lead to more abuse.

How to avoid cyber bullying

There are a few things that you can teach your kids to make their online presence more secure.

  • Do not give out personal details – this include phone numbers, email addresses, physical addresses and social media handle/usernames.
  • Be careful about what you post – is the video or post provocative?
  • Only give your mobile number to close friends.
  • Be secure with your passwords for all your social media channels. Never let your friends know them.
  • Learn about the privacy settings on social media. It is usually very easy to really nail down who can find you on most networks. Don’t make it easy for strangers.
  • Don’t become a part of cyberbullying. Your kid may not have sent a message or email, but if they pass it on, they are just as culpable as the original cyberbully.
  • Learn how to block messages, profiles and emails.
  • Know how to report cyberbullying and abuse across the various platforms. ISPs, phone providers, website administrators and social media sites almost always have a reporting feature for exactly this.

By Simon Noakes

Simon is the CEO and Founder of Interactive Schools. A father of 4, he founded Interactive Schools in 2006. He utilises his experience and passion for strategic marketing, thought leadership, social media, brand values, technology and innovative thinking to assist schools in telling their unique #SchoolStories. Tweet him @SimonNoakes