Yesterday we celebrated internet safety day, a day for raising awareness with issues of the internet and how to keep our children safe when surfing the World Wide Web. According to the UK Safer Internet Centre, last year we managed to reach 2.8 million children and help them understand how to use the internet safely. Cyberbullying, internet safety and privacy warnings are all issues that Safer Internet Day wanted to highlight and eventually resolve. Thousands of organisations got involved this year and it even had a celebrity input with Beth Tweddle – Olympic Gymnast, along with members of Diversity dance group.
There are many concerns that involve minors using the internet for social media or other websites that may include harmful content. According to the NSPCC, there were 11.000 counselling sessions with children who has discussed issues they had had online. Cyberbullying has had an increase of a massive 87% over the last few years. Many people believe that taking away the access of the internet from the victims can help resolve the issues here; however this is not necessarily true. The aftereffects of cyberbullying, and bullying in general, can be extremely damaging to the victims mental health. Bullying can lead to anxiety, a lack of confidence, and in some cases can cause depression. These issues will not go away overnight once you have banned a child from using their electronic devices and computers. Furthermore, many victims have been personally attacked online by their peers or school associates. This suggests that the bullying could still continue despite it no longer being cyber-related. With this in mind, it leads to consider the consequences of the perpetrators and many would suggest banning them from social media and other websites instead. However, the internet is a vast place, information and previous conversations can be deleted and you may never find out who you are really talking to online. In this case; there are several tips listed below to help you keep your children safe online and help eradicate cyberbullying and other issues concerned with internet safety.
Tips and advice for parents:
There is a 13 year old+ age restriction for the social media platform Facebook. Despite this, many children create an account and lie about their age to gain access to their own personal profile. There are many issues with Facebook that many children may face. Offensive content can circulate at very fast rates across users’ newsfeeds; this can include violence and pornographic content that is not suitable for younger people under 18 to view. Although you are able to report this type of content, it can very regularly be too late.
- Following the age restrictions to social media websites are important, if you choose to go against this, you should regularly check up on who is in your child’s friend list and make sure they have not received any unwanted messages from strangers online.
- Go private: make sure to set up your child’s online account as private. This way it is more difficult to access for people who don’t know them and also hides personal information from anyone who is not on their friends list.
- To ensure you aren’t able to search for inappropriate or offensive content you can now set up a child lock with your internet providers. This means you won’t have access to certain websites that are either labelled as ‘inappropriate’ or websites that have age restrictions.
- Cyberbullying: it is highly unlikely that you will always keep on track of what your child is up to on the internet. To help expose any cyberbullying that your child may be involved with, either as a victim or as a culprit, it can help to assess your child’s behaviour when they are using certain devices. Tell-tale signs may include; secrecy with their internet devices, low mood and becoming introverted, or constantly being on their phones/computers.
Tips and advice for teachers:
As a teacher your input on helping children learn about internet safety and how you should use the internet is very important. It is also essential that you urge your students to speak out when they are feeling threatened whilst using their internet devices.
- Urge your students to make teachers and parents aware of any issues that they, or someone they know, are a victim of online abuse. Offer support for those in need and let them know that they won’t be in trouble for issues they have may be involved with or accidentally caused.
- Teach your students the damaging effects of cyberbullying, many children may not understand the consequences of this type of bullying as they are not able to see the aftereffects they may have caused.
- Remind your school children that there is a zero-tolerance for bullying. Nobody deserves to be bullied no matter what the circumstances or the environment. Let them know of the penalties they will face if they are reported.
- Let your students know why privacy online in important. Many schools this year have got involved with a simple task of ‘share my photo’. This is where schools have taken a photo of a sign asking users to share and like their photo, to see how far and how fast a photo can circulate around Facebook. Information on Facebook can go viral very quickly nowadays, it is important that children keep their information private to make sure they are safe from stranger danger and potential cyberbullying for people who are not in their friends list.
Quick Tips for Kids:
- Make sure your social media profiles are set to private.
- Don’t keep any issues with cyberbullying and online abuse to yourself; you will not be in trouble for telling the truth.
- Don’t be a bully, be a friend. Harassing people online can be very damaging, you might not realise how much it affects them afterwards.
- Don’t talk to strangers online, they may let on that they want to be friends but you may never know who you are really talking to on the other side of the screen.
The Cyber Future
Social media has seen a rise in cyberbullying as it is now easier than ever to target somebody online, whether you know them or not. Safer Internet Day aims to eliminate the issues that the internet may cause. The internet can be a wonderful place at times, full of knowledge, games and entertainment that can be fun for all the family. It is important that we highlight the issues within this environment to then help children be safe when they are surfing the web. Search the hashtag #SaferInternetDay on Twitter to find out what schools and organisations near you have been up to and how they aim to make the internet a safer place day by day.