Ahead of Safer Internet Day 2022 (8 February), online safeguarding experts are urging parents and carers to continue to keep a close watch on their child’s online activities and to be aware of the signs of cyberbullying.
More than 1.7million laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, colleges and local authorities as part of the Government’s Get Help with Technology programme to help children and young people during the pandemic. And with so many more connected devices in children’s hands, the Safer Schools Initiative, led by safeguarding experts Ineqe Safeguarding Group in partnership with specialist schools insurer, Zurich Municipal says it has never been more important for parents and carers to be aware of the dangers posed to young people online – and specifically cyberbullying.
To mark Safer Internet Day, the Safer Schools Initiative has released tips and guidance for parents and carers on spotting the signs of cyberbullying and how to support someone who is being bullied.
Tilden Watson, Head of Education, at Zurich Municipal says: “Nearly two years have passed since the UK’s schools were forced to close their doors and switch to remote learning. The Get Help with Technology programme has helped millions of disadvantaged children and young people to continue their studies, but by increasing access to connected devices, potentially unsupervised at times, the risk of online harm is greater. Cyberbullying in particular is a growing problem, affecting around a fifth of 10-15 year olds.). Unfortunately, with the ongoing rise of smart phones and tablets cyberbullying isn’t going away anytime soon, so spotting the signs and knowing how to react is vital for parents and schools.”
Jim Gamble, online safeguarding expert and the force behind the Safer Schools app said, “Online bullying remains a monumental challenge for parents, carers, teachers and safeguarding professionals. The best way we can help young people stay safe online is by empowering them through education and teaching them how to protect themselves from harm. However, should you find out a young person is being bullied online it’s important to know how best to respond.”
How to spot if someone is being bullied online
Often signs a child is being bullied, even in the online environment, will manifest in the classroom, corridors and playgrounds of the school and at home. Keep an eye out for changes to behaviour. This could include:
- a change in sleeping patterns and frequent nightmares,
- not wanting to attend school,
- a noticeable decline in standards of schoolwork,
- a nervous reluctance to use their mobile phones/internet
- showing unusual aggression, being disruptive or unreasonable.
So, what should you do if someone is being bullied online?
Young people may not describe what is happening to them as bullying, so it is important to listen if they mention things that are upsetting them or worrying them online. If a child describes an experience which sounds like, or is online bullying, Jim Gamble’s advice is to:
- Take time to listen to them and try not to interrupt. Try not to get angry or upset at the situation.
- Don’t stop them from accessing social media platforms or online games. It may feel like punishment and stop them from telling you in the future
- Reassure the child that things will change, and they have done the right thing by telling you. This can help reduce their anxiety.
- Make sure the child knows it’s not their fault and they have done nothing wrong
- As a parent or carer, it is important not to get involved or retaliate in cases of online bullying. This will likely make the situation worse for the child
- Talk to the child about what they would like to see happen. Involving them in how the bullying is resolved will help them feel in control of the situation
To support parents and schools this Safer Internet Day, Ineqe’s online safeguarding experts have curated a set of resources available to download or view on the safer schools website. These cover a range of topics designed to help children and young people develop and maintain safer, healthier relationships with others online.
The Safer Schools App was launched by Zurich Municipal and online safeguarding experts, Ineqe Safeguarding Group in 2018. Since then, it has been rolled out across thousands of state schools in the UK. The App combines the expertise of a range of safeguarding professionals to provide staff, parents and carers with greater understanding of the digital space, trends and emerging risks as well as education about frequently used online language, social media buzzwords and credible video contact.
Available free for schools insured with Zurich Municipal, the award-winning Safer Schools App, resources and training offer critical advice regarding image sharing, online bullying safer gamin and much more. For more information and resources visit: www.oursaferschools.co.uk