How to protect your child from cyberbullying

As we’re settling into the new school term, the same discussions about how best to protect our children both inside and outside of the education system are coming up. This follows suggestions from the Children’s Commissioner for England that some schools should be doing more to combat abuse and violence – with measures such as increased opening hours and on-site security.

Despite this, one of the biggest concerns for parents and teachers remains the threat of cyberbullying, an epidemic which has becoming a growing issue as more and more children get access to smart technology. In a survey conducted by loveit coverit, which looked at how children and young people use smartphones, it was found that over half of children between the ages of 10 and 13 have a personal smartphone, and that cyberbullying was among parents’ biggest concerns with their child having access to the internet. On top of this, it was found that over one third of parents believed that their child had been a victim of cyberbullying but had not been approached about the issue.

As this is a growing concern for many parents across the country, it’s important that you know the best ways to protect your child from the dangers of cyberbullying. In this short guide, we’ll run through some of the best ways to keep your child safe, so you can have peace-of-mind when they go online – whether that be at home or in school.

Parental control apps

A really easy way to ensure that your child is protected whilst surfing the web, regardless of where they are, is to get a parental control app for their smartphone. These can be easily installed on any device and allow you to set controls on a number of variables. For example, you can block specific websites and apps from your child’s device. So, if you know or suspect that they’re receiving negative attention from certain places (i.e. social media), you can stop them from visiting those spaces altogether. Alternatively, you can set timers for when apps can be accessed. This is particularly useful if you feel that your child may be accessing their smartphone during school hours.

While some smartphone manufacturers do have in-built services for parents to set limits on use – such as the iPhone’s Screen Time settings – there are a variety of third-party applications that can be installed on a range of devices. Some of these are paid subscription services and some are free, but it’s important to find the one that works best for you and your family.

Have an open discussion

While this may seem like a daunting prospect for parents with older children or teenagers, it’s a great a great way of protecting your child from cyberbullying. Not only is it good to have a frank conversation about their emotional wellbeing if they are suffering from bullying, it’s also good practice to have these sorts of discussions before they are introduced to independent smartphone technology.

According to the loveit coverit survey of UK parents, 78% would talk to their child openly if they found out that they were being bullied, whilst others would go to the school or the police. While it’s important to engage with your child about their mental state, especially in the wake of bullying, it’s also as important to ensure that they feel comfortable opening up to you in the first place, and the groundwork for this has to be laid early on. A good technique can be to have a rule book for online activity, so that you and your child understand what behaviour is acceptable and what is not.

It’s also important to stress that these discussions should not just be preventative, but continuous even if you don’t suspect your child has been a victim of cyberbullying. Furthermore, it’s important to teach your child about how respect others online, so that they don’t fall into the same traps as other cyberbullies.

Work with their school

Even if you’re not having discussions with your child about proper internet use and the dangers of cyberbullying, you can be fairly confident that measures are being taken within schools to offer support and guidance.

One of the biggest components to protecting your child online is to establish a good relationship with their school and ensure strong communication about their online activity, if that’s applicable. Not only is it important that the school informs you of how your child is behaving – if they’ve noticed drastic changes, had discussions with them, caught them using their smartphone inappropriately – it’s equally important that you relay any concerns that you might have. While the school can’t always act if cyberbullying arises outside school time, they will work with you to address the issues where they can.

Alternatively, if you feel that your child’s school is not adequately equipped to deal with the issue of cyberbullying, it’s vital that your raise the topic and push for more action to be taken. This can range from asking teachers and administrators to discuss the problem more openly or pushing for it to be included in the school’s policies and code of conduct.

While these tips may not be applicable to every situation, they’re a good starting point for opening discussions about cyberbullying with your child and their school, ensuring that they have as many tools as they need to remain safe online.

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