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Cyberbullying affects many Kiwi kids, how can you help?

23 May 2017

This week the country is working to make New Zealand bullying free. Netsafe wants to remind people that bullying doesn’t just happen in the playground. 

Online bullying is a serious issue, with Netsafe receiving hundreds of complaints of online abuse, harassment and bullying from young people in the last six months.

Research has shown that one in five young people have been the target of online bullying, Netsafe wants parents and teachers to help them make a difference.

Director of outreach Sean Lyons says he understands that some people feel out of their depths with the tech younger generations are fluent in. 

“We teach our kids how to behave offline, but with technology changing so rapidly over the last few years many of us don’t feel equipped to teach them how to behave online.”

Lyons says not to be intimidated by the technology, but to connect with children and ask the important questions. 

“Just talk to them about it’, says Lyons. “Do they see it? Do they worry about it? Have their friends faced it? The answers to these questions will tell you a lot.”

The digital realm has become an integral part of day-to-day life, Lyons says it’s important not to forget how ‘real’ the online world is. 

“As a society, we can’t think about the online world as something that isn’t “real life”. How we behave online can have a huge effect on others. There aren’t two different sets of rules - just because you’re not face to face, it doesn’t mean that you can or should be bullying another person.”

A lot of online disputes can escalate due to the removal of a physical person, as it provides a sense anonymity and reduces empathy, says Lyons.

“It is easier to do, hiding behind a screen, because you don’t see how it’s affecting the other person first hand. Teaching kids to be empathetic and to think about the person on the other side of the dispute is really important. That is a conversation parents were having long before the internet."

This Bullying-Free NZ Week is an important opportunity for schools, caregivers and communities to raise awareness and promote inclusive, safe online interactions.

Five things caregivers and teachers should do this week to promote online safety:

1. Talk to your kids about how you expect them to behave online
2. Let them know that if it’s not acceptable offline, it’s not acceptable online
3. Ask your kids to think about the person on the “other side” of the screen
4. Lead by example – think about how you’re behaving toward others online
5. Ask your kids what advice they would give to a friend who was being bullied online

Netsafe wants to remind everyone that their confidential helpline is open seven days a week on 0508 NETSAFE or if you prefer email - here.

Check out these tips for people dealing with online bullying:

  • Stay calm: Your child needs to be able to talk to you and know that you’ll be level headed, thoughtful and helpful in your response.
  • Evaluate the situation: It’s important to know exactly what’s going on before you can work out what to do next. Is it just a few off hand remarks, or is it something more serious?
  • Understand how your child is being affected: Every child is different, and behaviour that deeply affects one child may be water off a duck’s back to another. If your child is upset about a situation, let them know that you understand and it’s OK to be upset.
  • Don’t take away the technology: Taking away your child’s laptop or mobile phone can alienate them from their most important support network - their peers.
  • Teach your child how to use the features available on most social networking sites: For example, blocking and unfriending people. You can also show them how to update privacy settings on social media.
  • Work through a plan together: If you need help about what you can do next contact Netsafe for advice.
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