Dr Brian Graetz is the general manager of beyondblue; an independent, not-for-profit organisation that works to increase awareness and understanding of anxiety and depression in Australia. One of the issues the company deals with daily is cyberbullying which currently affects up to 10 per cent of all Australian teenagers. Here are some expert tips from Graetz to help parents deal with personal online attacks aimed at their kids.
Cyberbullying picture from Shutterstock
Last week, technology firm Symantec donated $260,000 to beyondblue during the Gold Coast 600 V8 Supercars event. The donation will be used to help Australian youths become resilient against cyberbullying by developing a range of free, publically available activities and resources. During the event, we quizzed the company's manager about the nature of this beast and what parents can do to combat it.
"Cyberbullying is another version of bullying that is somewhat easier to do for the perpetrator," Graetz explained. "Your role as a parent is to ensure they can manage their stresses when it happens. This means not only making sure they don't take ownership of it, but also building their resilient skills."
Here are a few tips for parents of cyberbullied kids that should help them to cope.
Take the time to learn and understand what cyberbullying is
"This probably won't apply to most of your readers, but many parents don't necessarily have a deep understanding of what cyberbullying is; particularly as it relates to social media. Without this understanding, it's difficult to set up your child's use of the internet with the necessary precautions in place. It's easy for kids to go blithely into it without really understanding the significance of social media and what it can do."
"It's not enough to understand your kid's internet use, you also have to talk to them about it. Regularly check in with them to see if anything has been upsetting them online; particularly around emails, text messages and social media. Establishing good, ongoing communication is really important. For many young people and also adults, the major reason we have mental health issues is because they don't actually tell anyone when things are going pear-shaped. Talking to friends and family definitely helps."
Put things into perspective
"Many victims of cyberbullying feel like they are the ones to blame; that they are somehow responsible for bringing this on. You should explain to your kids the facts of cyberbullying and how this has become something that is quite common. Let them know that if they do come across it, they're not going to be the only one. It's really something that a many young people have to deal with on a fairly regular basis. You need to explain that this is not about them or anything they have done wrong."
"Once you've invited your kids to tell you when something's gone wrong, you really need to make sure they aren't left to take it on themselves. You really have to do a lot of work as a parent and treat it with the gravity it deserves. If they feel they are in some way responsible or inadequate, you need to work through some strategies and self-talk that will remind them that this is about the bullies, not them."
"You're better off telling your child not to respond and react because clearly when that happens it generally escalates. It's not a solution and will likely continue the issue."
Report it to the school
"In a lot of these instances, the cyberbully will be at the same school. The school needs to be made aware of what's happening. Most schools have information about cyber safety and will engage with reported incidents. One of the really big things we find is that young people don't want to say anything because of the shame and embarrassment. But bottling things up can make it worse."