As schools across the world have closed to stop the spread of COVID-19, classes have been moved online. But for all the live presentations and limitless learning material, some nastier elements of school life had transitioned online too.
According to a recent report by Israeli start-up L1ght, reports of cyberbullying are increasing rapidly. Cyberbullying incidents increased by 70% between March and April this year when lock down was at its peak.
More time online creates more opportunities for harassment
Kids already spend a lot of their time outside the classroom online, playing games, completing homework and messaging their friends. But now classes take place online, your children may be sat at a computer for many hours each day.
Cyberbullying has been on the rise before lock down – some reports suggest that just 20% of bullying takes place at school now. The strain placed on mental health caused by being confined to the home for weeks at a time could be making matters worse.
These unusual circumstances means that some kids may be venting their frustration online – and their classmates become the targets.
The secretive nature of cyberbullying
Despite doing our best to keep our kids safe, sometimes cyberbullies still get through. While schools are closed parents are trying to help kids with their schoolwork and hold down full time jobs, so it’s no surprise that we are sometimes distracted. However, there are things we can do to help our kids help themselves.
Have “The Talk”
Your kids need to know they can tell you anything so that you can help them if they run into trouble online. Tell your kids what cyberbullying is and what to do when it happens. Let them know that they can tell you about problems with their classmates.
The applications used by schools all have tools for reporting abuse. Show your kids where to find the abuse reporting tools and how to fill in the forms. They can then protect themselves if they run into trouble. If your children are old enough to use social media, (Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat etc) show them how the block function works – that way they can stop bullies messaging them.
You should also discuss the importance of not responding. Blocking a bully sends a much stronger message than getting into an argument online.
Use your parental controls
Android, Windows and Apple devices all have parental controls built in. These settings allow you to block inappropriate content, limit “screen time” and to control access to messaging apps and contacts.
Discuss the settings with your kids and why it is important to help them learn to use the internet safely. Explain that parental controls are an important tool for protecting against cyberbullies.
Take a few minutes today
Cyberbullying is nasty, secretive and can have a damaging effect on your kids. Take a few minutes today to talk about online abuse with your children and take some steps to get parental controls put in place – they will thank you in the end.