Protecting the smartphone generation
With the back to school season upon us, is it time we did more to protect our children online?
Growing up has always been challenging, but today’s digital world presents a whole new set of risks. Whilst the internet provides young people with many new opportunities to learn, create and network, it also leaves them more vulnerable than ever before.
As adults, it is our responsibility to help them navigate this new world in the safest way possible, and we must wise up quickly to do so.
On the internet, everything is permanent. Every click, like, comment, share and photo leaves a digital footprint even if deleted – one that can be discovered at any time by university admissions or future employers. Creating an online impression is just as important as is in-person. If people search for your name or nickname online, a lot of what we post can be found. Therefore, we must teach our children to be more cautious when posting, to consider their future selves.
Concerns for children’s mental health are on the rise with referrals to child mental health units increasing by nearly 50% in the last three years. And with this increase comes another, one in every three young people have now reported being a victim of cyberbullying, with the majority of abuse taking place on social media. The correlation between the two is clear.
With mobile technology being so freely available, cyberbullying has quickly become a constant source of relentless distress and worry. The bullying is now no longer confined to the playground, following young people home after school, college, or work, carrying through to the next day in a perpetual cycle or torment. The National Bullying Survey revealed that 55% of children had experienced social bullying, with a further 67% saying that they felt depressed and 40% having suicidal thoughts as a result.
So how do you identify the signs of cyberbullying? And what can you do to beat it? With two-thirds of young people revealing that that they wouldn’t tell their parents if they were experiencing something threatening online, it is more important than ever before to recognise the subtle signs of cyberbullying. These can include:
- Low self-esteem
- Spending more time alone
- Reluctance to let anyone near digital devices
- Finding excuses to stay home from school
- Friends disappearing or exclusion from social events
- Losing weight or changing appearance to fit in
- Fresh marks on skin or wearing long sleeved clothing (could be indicative of self-harm)
- Changes in personality
How to monitor your child’s online presence
- Ensure that you know all of their passcodes (be that to their phone, computer, or social media)
- Make sure you are friends with them online (also check the private best friend features)
- Go through their messages and photos twice a week (keep in mind that these can be deleted and hidden in folders)
- House rule: keep everyone’s phone downstairs at night
- Make all of their social media accounts private
- Check their social media profiles from their devices (they might have excluded your profile from being able to see their posts)
- Approach your child as a friend, not an enemy so that they don’t become secretive
To learn more about the ways to counteract and deal with cyberbullying, visit Bullying UK
- Watch 'Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out', a documentary detailing the effects of cyberbullying on young people on BBC3, Thursday, 9pm
Image licensed by: Ingram Image