The upcoming school holidays mean it will soon be time for children to leave early mornings and homework behind. Parents and guardians should be aware, however, that along with the significant safety and entertainment benefits of cellphones comes the threat of your child inadvertently taking the school bully along on holiday
Cyberbullying is no schoolyard prank and is, in fact, a devastating form of child abuse. In serious cases, protection orders can be applied for from a Magistrate under the Protection from Harassment Act 17 of 2011.
Fortunately, there are also many proactive ways parents and guardians can enhance child cyber safety to keep the lid on bullying behaviour such as trolling, doxxing, sexting and cyberstalking before it escalates says South Africa’s Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA).
Informed and aware caregivers are children’s best defence against online threats like cyberbullies. Parents should educate themselves and take the time to become familiar with the social platforms, apps and games their children are using. This will help them better recognise red flags in need of direct parental intervention.
Help limit the likelihood of your child experiencing the depression and anxiety that comes from cyberbullying, by first and foremost, talking about cyberbullying to introduce the topic and thereafter establish a foundation of open and honest communication. Explain to them the importance of immediately shutting down any upsetting behaviour on the internet.
Before leaving for the beach, berg or bush this holiday season, and knowing that the family is likely to post photos and videos while away, check the privacy settings of all social media accounts. Bullies may be accessing the family’s accounts. Avoid giving younger children unfettered access to social media to keep prying eyes away from memories-in-the-making.
Parents and guardians should be on the lookout – at home and on holiday – for signs of cyberbullying that may include suddenly switching device screens, multiple social media accounts, overly-frequent use of devices and irritability or anger at attempts to curtail usage.
Should bullying behaviour emerge online, advise children to:
* Block the bully;
* Not respond;
* Not retaliate;
* Save the evidence for their parents or guardians; and
* Report abusive comments to administrators.
Should the bullying be especially serious, it should be reported at the nearest police station as soon as possible, with the request that the case be forwarded to the SAPS Cybercrime Division. Do not wait until the family returns home from holiday.
On a more general note, and with the giving season in mind, remember to check the security and privacy settings of any smart new and older toys that can connect to the internet. With the family spending more time together, also remember to secure electronic devices that should not be accessed by children. Don’t underestimate your children’s ability to guess your PIN.