Cyberbullying has been around as long as the internet and with social media’s prevalence it has been all the more acute. Perhaps its most insidious aspect is that while once kids could get some respite from bullying once they left school the cyber form is twenty four hours a day seven days a week.
Cyberbullying is a deeply embedded problem in society, with one in five young people under the age of 18 reporting that they have experienced online bullying in any one year, but schools cannot solve the problem alone.
This is the view of Professor Marilyn Campbell, of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), a world-expert on cyberbullying. Professor Campbell has recently published Reducing Cyberbullying in Schools, which focuses on international evidenced-based strategies for preventing cyberbullying, including tips for parents.
Professor Campbell spent two decades as a teacher, before becoming a registered psychologist and then moving into educational research. And she says that to help address cyberbullying, we need to be looking outside the school yard and into the home.
“While schools obviously have a role to play, we need to ensure parents are playing an active role in dealing with cyberbullying,” says Professor Campbell. “Most cyberbullying is initiated outside of the school, so we need to make sure parents know how to respond – whether their child is being bullied or, in fact, is the bully.”
Often, the policing of cyberbullying is seen as an area for schools and teachers to manage, but Professor Campbell says that parents shouldn’t pass on the responsibility for seeing that their children are safe in digital environments.
“Parents are their children’s first teachers, and they are the people supplying their children with the technology,” says Professor Campbell. “Both of those factors add up to parents having a very important role to play – they can’t just say ‘This is something for schools to deal with,’ and wash their hands of it.”
“No-one is suggesting that this is an easy space to navigate – far from it. But appropriate online relationships are just like appropriate offline relationships – they thrive on respect and empathy, despite the fact that they are being conducted behind the veil of online anonymity. Parents need to make sure they are teaching their children how to conduct those kinds of relationships.”
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