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Tips this holidays to protect kids from cyberbullying
Fri, 16th Dec 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

As we head towards Christmas, many of us may be thinking of buying our children an iPad or laptop, or they may spend some of their holiday time playing on yours. Our children are a generation of digital natives who are using technology to communicate, learn and explore the world around them and as parents, it's exciting to watch what they do with their new-found knowledge. You only have to search ‘Kidpreneur' to find a multitude of young people building apps, launching online business and doing some pretty incredible things through the power of the web. New Zealanders love their devices and so our kids are also spending a significant portion of their time online.

As always, with great opportunity comes some risk. And even more parental responsibility. The online world holds the same joys and pitfalls as a child's offline interactions. They make friends, enemies, share jokes, pull each other's legs, have fights, argue with people, have people pick on them – and meet bullies and sometimes bully. For as many happy memories and interactions they have on social media, there's as much chance of suddenly finding yourself in an unpleasant situation and not knowing how to react because this is the virtual world.

A lot of kids and parents ignore online bullying either through fear of the unknown or due to the fact they don't consider it to 'real' if they can't see it. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Bullying can take place anywhere and comes in many different forms, from spreading rumours and posting inappropriate photos to threatening someone.

To help parents deal with online bullying effectively, Facebook recently released a new Safety Center, which includes a Bullying Prevention Hub and Parent's Portal. The Safety Center is designed to provide resources, top tips and step-by-step videos for parents, teens and educators on how to stay safe online. Within the Bullying Prevention Hub, there is specific advice for parents who's child who is being bullied or is bullying others. While the Parent's Portal includes guides for parents about how Facebook works and tips for talking with kids about staying safe online. We worked with safety experts around the world to create these resources. In New Zealand, we worked with NetSafe and Sticks ‘n Stones.

As parents we have the job of helping guide our children to make the right choices and build the skills they need to stay safe in today's digital world.

The first step to helping your child is to be a good listener. Remember that you're the expert about your own child and also a role model for how to handle difficult situations.

Whether your child is the target of bullying or you child is bullying others that are a few common principles to tackling the situation:

  1. Prepare for the conversation. Make sure you're in an environment they feel safe and you leave any heated and judgemental emotions at the door. You need to be calm, supportive and empathetic.
  2. Talk about the problem. Listen to them and take them seriously. Although it's hard, don't make promises you can't keep but do let them know you want to help find a solution to the problem. If your child is bullying others, do let them know how serious the situation is, that there behaviour is unacceptable.
  3. Explore solutions to the problem / develop an action plan. If your child is being bullied, try asking your child what they want to do and how you can help. If they are the bully, let them know there are consequences for their actions. Encourage them to apologise and if the bullying happened online have them remove the posts.

This list is just a starting point. For more information you can head to our newly launched Parent's Portal that has guides and tips for parents as well as access to safety experts around the world.

The hope is that as awareness of online bullying increases, teenagers in New Zealand will also come together to build support groups for each other. Here in New Zealand, we have Sticks ‘n Stones as the leading example of this – a youth driven collaboration to tackle bullying and promote online respect

My advice is engage early. Even before they are on social media, talk to them about technology as a whole, and don't be afraid to ask them to teach you! Ask your teenagers to teach you about the new apps and sites. Just as you lay the foundation early for dialogue and conversation offline with your children, you should lay that foundation early online. It only gets harder to do so if you wait.