Bullying and cyberbullying are growing concerns for parents, but there's plenty you can do to help keep you kids safe. Here's Vodafone's Ellie Allen with a few top tips...
Unfortunately, the latest statistic for bullying in schools is worryingly high. A new YouGov survey commissioned as part of this campaign has highlighted the huge scale of the problem – nearly a third of young people reported are being bullied in schools across England.
And bullying doesn’t stop at physical and mental abuse. With the vast increase in digital technology, there’s more opportunity for cyberbullying than ever, particularly on social media. In fact, our own research showed that 68% of the young people polled, knew someone who had been cyber-bullied. It’s a worrying time, especially for parents, but if we can all stand up to bullying – whether that’s at school, in the workplace or anywhere else – we can hope that together we can lower the statistic and save people from the upset, stress and sometimes lost lives that bullying can cause.
As a parent myself, I feel it’s ultimately our responsibility as parents to teach our children how to treat others, and to make them aware of bullying without scaring them. I tell my kids to treat others how they’d like to be treated themselves, because I believe that every person has the same right to live a happy life as the next person – regardless of race, beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, etc.
With the support of the school my kids go to, they’re growing up with the same values as me, and I’m hoping they will never bully. Sadly, not all kids have this support and unfortunately their way of dealing with their problems is to bully others. If my children are ever bullied, I really hope they feel they can tell someone – hopefully me, but alternatively a teacher or a close friend. Speaking up is the first step in stopping a bully, even though it may feel like the worst thing they could do at the time.
Beyond that first step, here are some handy extra resources, tips and even apps to help you and your kids stay clear of cyberbullying…
I attended a welcome evening this week at the secondary school my eldest child will be moving to soon. I was pleased to see that a section of the welcome speech was reminding parents of the importance of keeping children safe online.
They even recommended our very own Digital Parenting pages as a good place to start, but there are plenty of other brilliant resources online. Other useful pages worth checking out are the NSPCC’s Online Safety guide, BBC’s iWonder page, and Get Safe Online’s all-encompassing information.
Get your child to talk to you
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve asked, ‘how was your day?’ and got the simple response: ‘OK’, or ‘boring’. Or I’ve asked, ‘what did you do today?’ and got back: ‘not much’, or ‘I can’t remember’. Trying to get your kids to open up can feel like a battle, so now I try to ask open ended questions, such as:
• What could have made your day better?
• Who did you play with at break time?
• What was your favourite lesson today?
• Tell me about something that made you laugh today
• When were you happiest today?
• Did you help anyone today? How?
• What word did your teacher say most today?
What to do if your child tells you they’re being bullied
The popular parenting site Netmums advises first of all to believe your child, and listen to everything they have to say. Don’t accuse them of telling tales, stay calm and focussed and praise them for doing the right thing.
Get all the facts: who, what, when and where? And check your child’s understanding of what bullying is. It may be a one-off. The #StandUpToBullying campaign has made packs available to schools across the UK which have a number of different materials to help drive discussion about bullying among school-aged children, making it a really useful tool to drive open and honest conversation about the topic.
Get in touch with your child’s teacher. Having a good relationship with the school means you’re in a better position to tackle the problem together. Make notes too, as this will be useful for further investigation.
There’s an app for that
Although digital technology can cause potential challenges for people (young and old), it’s not all bad. There are lots of clever apps to help you keep your children safe online, and to enable you to actually see what’s going on in their world. Here are a few of my favourites:
SecureTeen Parental Control | 1 year subscription £29.99
This awesome app lets you keep an eye on your child’s online activities, manage their screen time through device schedules, stay one step ahead of them through location alerts, and keeps them guarded against harmful content.
Our PACT | Free
Our PACT is a leading parental control app that makes it easy for you to set limits on how much time your children are spending on their mobile devices. With it you can create schedules, block all internet and app use at a moment’s notice or reward them with the allowance feature. Recommended by family man Jamie Oliver.
Vodafone Broadband app | Free
And then there’s always Vodafone’s own free Broadband App for iOS and Android, which also lets you control the amount of time your children can access the internet for, and even lets you turn off the Wi-Fi at bedtime.
Find out more… You can find a whole heap of family-centric advice, tips and tools in our 2016 Digital Parenting Guide. Download or read it online.