Live Blog Tackles Cyberbullying [Department of Education & Training, 10/2/2015]

As part of Safer Internet Day, Bully Stoppers expert and clinical psychologist Andrew Fuller answered questions from Victorian school students and parents on an online blog on the Herald Sun’s website.

Over two hours Mr Fuller took questions from dozens of young people and adults about cyberbullying and staying safe online, including tips for parents about how to respond if their child is being cyberbullied.

Some of Mr Fuller’s advice for students included:

Q: If we see online bullying what tips could you give us to help?

A: Generally it is best not to respond. Instead talk to an adult, save and store the content. You could block or delete the bully from your contact list. Use the report abuse button on social network sites and talk about this in class and get ideas about appropriate use of social media as a group. The Bully Stoppers website has heaps of tips.

Q: How can we make our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles safer?

A: Check the privacy settings for all of your social media sites – makes sure people can’t track your location, school and determine who should be able to view your postings. Look at the help centre on

Q: Sometimes when I’m playing a multiplayer game, some people I’m playing with gang up on me and swear at me. How can I not let it affect me? I don’t want to talk to mum, because she might stop me from using the internet.

A: Players say all sorts of things to one another on a multiplayer game that they don’t mean. Try not to take it personally but you find it is affecting you, you might have to either change the game you play or the group you play with. Mr Fuller also had advice for concerned parents.

Q: I’ve tried to tell my children when this kind of thing (cyberbullying) happens to just take a two day break from social media, because it won’t be the end of the world. But they seem to take this like I’m punishing them for them being bullied. Is this the wrong message? What should I tell them to do instead?

A: Generally parents shouldn’t threaten or ban use of technology as it often makes them reluctant to seek help in the future. It is usually better to use this as an opportunity to work through hurt feelings and develop strategies for the future. It’s useful to help children learn not to respond to abusive messages. The number one rule for dealing with cyberbullying is don’t respond, don’t interact and don’t engage.

Q: I suspect my son may be being cyber bullied – because when he comes out of the computer room for dinner he seems quite down and bit depressed. How should i approach this subject with him without making it look like I’m prying into his personal life?

A: This is always tricky to judge. People can appear a bit flat and exhausted after playing computer games for a time. The best first thing to do is to share your observations with him and ask if he is ok. Do this each time he appears flat or depressed. If you don’t feel convinced about the answers you get, you might want to check how he seems at school by asking the school welfare staff.

Q: My eight year old daughter is asking to have an Instagram account because all her friends have one. I think that she is too young. What do I need to put in place to keep her safe from online predators?

A: I agree with you – too young! Many social networking sites have age restrictions. You don’t pick and choose which laws you obey in the real world so you shouldn’t do it online.

The Bully Stoppers website is full of information and advice for students, parents and schools on cyberbullying and cybersafety – including advice from Mr Fuller. The full transcript of Mr Fuller’s live blog will be available on the Bully Stoppers website shortly.

60 per cent of youths admit to cyberbullying others, survey shows [djs research, 10/2/2015]

According to a recent survey by Action for Children, approximately 60 per cent of young people admitted to bullying others online, in order to fit in with the crowd.

The survey questioned 2,000 children aged 8 to 17 and found that 2 in 5 (40 per cent), were actively trying to avoid falling victim to online abuse.

The findings of the survey also highlighted that half of the children who responded admitted to not reporting disturbing content, which they’d come across on the internet.  This may be something they’ve read, or a picture they’ve viewed, which made them feel uncomfortable.

1 in 5 (20%) of children claimed that they had not reported content which made them feel uncomfortable, out of fear that a bully may harm them as a result.

1 in 7 claimed they feared that if they spoke out about inappropriate online behaviour or content, they would get into trouble.

However, some children had chosen to consult an adult about what they had seen in the past.  Of the children who claimed to have spoken out at some point, 65 per cent talked to their parents.

One of Action for Children’s aims is to educate parents about how to protect their children online. The charity suggests that parents should set rules before their children sign up for a social media account, and that they should also ensure that the child’s profile is set to private.  They also suggest that parents should check the age requirements of the site beforehand.

Action for Children also urges parents to have a discussion with their children, about the dangers they should be aware of when they are online.  Children should be warned to not share personal information with anybody, and to not speak to strangers online.

Should anything happen, whilst on the internet, which makes a child feel uncomfortable, Action for Children insists that the child should know that they can approach a parent for help.

Head of Child Protection at Action for Children, Deanna Neilson said of the findings: “Online bullying is so prevalent, but we must not lose sight of the fact that many of these children bully others because of something going wrong in their own lives, or being driven to it through fear of being bullied or socially shunned themselves.  Low self-esteem, stress at school or being victimised themselves by peers or adults, are all reasons a child might act out on others.

“It’s important for parents to ask children about the day they’ve had online, just as they ask about the day they’ve had at school – whether your child is being bullied or bullying others, the problem, and any potentially more severe issues surrounding it, must be addressed.”


Sexting ‘starting younger’ warns Prof Shaheen Shariff [BBC News Wales, 10/2/2015]

Sexting is the new form of “flirty fun” and children are starting younger and younger, warns a leading researcher in the field.

It comes as events are being held across Wales to promote Safer Internet Day.

Prof Shaheen Shariff, of McGill University in Montreal, is author of Sexting and Cyberbullying – Defining the Line for Digitally Empowered Kids.

She said at least 60% of nine to 12-year-olds she had spoken to had been involved in sexting.

Prof Shariff says it can have wider consequences for adolescents, while girls who send an intimate images to boyfriends, who then distribute them, are the ones more likely to be blamed.

Online bullying: We Must also Consider Children who Bully Others [HUFFPOST TECH, by Deanna Neilson, 10/2/2015]

Online bullying among children is rife and while the potentially life-long impact on those targeted by bullies must be addressed, we cannot ignore the needs of young perpetrators either.

Action for Children recently polled 2,000 eight to 17 year olds about their internet activity and a startling one in seven told us they had bullied others online. It’s shocking that this harassment is so prevalent, but equally concerning is the fear expressed by those who said they act out on others. Nearly 60 per cent of children responded that they bullied others to fit in with a certain social group, while 40 per cent said they did so to prevent being targeted themselves.

These reasons don’t account for other issues that may also be present in children’s lives – such as low self-esteem, stress at school or being victimised themselves by peers or adults – which can contribute to a child lashing out at peers.

The best source of help for children in these situations is usually their parents. Whether your child is being bullied or bullying others, it’s important to know what’s going on in their lives you so can help address the issue and any potentially larger problems behind it.

Young people increasingly socialise on digital platforms, so parents should ask about their time online just as they ask about their day at school. Keeping a comfortable, open dialogue about their activity – not just diving in when you’re concerned about something – will not only keep you in touch with this part of their lives, but also encourage them to come to you if they’re ever concerned about issues such as bullying or strangers contacting them. Action for Children’s survey revealed that nearly 50 per cent of children did not tell anyone when they read or saw something online that made them feel uncomfortable, with one in seven saying they worried they would get in trouble if they did. This finding shows that assuring young people they can come to you is key.

Action for Children works with 300,000 children, young people, parents and carers each year and concerns about young people online come up time and time again. Many parents aren’t confident about talking to their children about their worries, sometimes because it could raise awkward conversations, sometimes because they simply don’t know very much about the platforms that young people use.

To keep children safe, adults must educate themselves about the online worlds that young people inhabit. A good way of doing this – and to open that comfortable, open dialogue – is to ask you children about it. Let them teach you about their activities and how they interact with peers. They are, after all, the experts.

Parents also need to ensure they help children keep themselves safe. Here are some tips our frontline workers share with parents:

• Discuss and agree parameters before your child joins a social networking site. Check the minimum age requirements.

• Consider whether a trusted adult should be added as a ‘friend’ and ensure your child has a ‘private’ profile.

• Talk about the potential dangers of sharing personal data.

• Remind your child that the same rules about bullying and stranger danger apply online as they do in public places and at school.

• Ensure your child knows how to report and block people online.

• Tell them they can talk to you about anything that upsets or worries them online – you’re on their side.

There’s no way to stay on top of all your child’s activity online – access at school and friends’ houses, as well as tablets and smartphones mean they are often unpoliced in the digital world. But with just a little communication, and letting children show you their expertise, parents can help children keep themselves safe online. Who knows? It might be a lot of fun.

Internet safety – The apps parents need to know about [Irish Examiner, by Helen O’Callaghan, 07/2/2015]

Protecting children online is now more difficult than ever due to the rise in popularity of photo-sharing apps, writes Helen O’Callaghan.

“It’s one of the best ways of getting them thinking about the issue,” says Simon Grehan of Webwise, the Internet safety initiative of the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), which promotes Safer Internet Day in Ireland.

For parents, protecting their kids online is more challenging than ever. Just as they thought they’d got on top of Facebook, young people are moving towards photo-sharing apps like Instagram and Snapchat.

“Many parents aren’t as aware of these,” says Grehan.

We’re long past the days when keeping the computer in the kitchen meant you could monitor your child’s online activity.

Young people are accessing the Internet much more through mobile phones and tablets than they did two years ago.

This finding emerged through interviews with 1,000 students aged nine to 16 and one of their parents conducted by Dr Brian O’Neill of DIT.

The research is just about to be published. And while online activity is still mostly done at home, the fact their devices are personal means they’re free from parental supervision and mediation, points out Grehan.

So what’s the attraction of photo-sharing apps?

“Smart phones don’t have a keyboard — it’s difficult for kids to type and they don’t have as high literacy skills to communicate through language. They use images to communicate — instead of ‘I’m at the cinema with my friends’, they take a picture to show it,” says Grehan.

Apps like Instagram and Snapchat also provide more tools to be creative.

“With Instagram, they can edit photos — add filter effects to make it look like the photo was taken in the 1920s. With Snapchat, they can draw over the photo and paint little messages.”

On the surface, Snapchat looks like it has advantages. “It’s more private — you send pictures to a specific person as opposed to a public you’ve never seen.

“The unique thing is the photo disappears five seconds after it’s opened — eliminating the concern that your employer might see it in 10 years time.

“But you actually can’t be sure it’s gone, never to be seen again, because it’s easy to get a screen grab of it. A lot of kids would know how to do this,” says Grehan.

These new apps pose the usual cyber-bullying risks — possibility of sharing embarrassing or compromising photos and of posting nasty comments about someone’s pictures.

Grehan advises parents to communicate regularly with children about their online activity.

“Have them show you how they’re using apps and sites. Explain your concerns and listen to theirs. It’s very easy to use technology. It requires life experience to decide what’s appropriate to share and what isn’t.”

Laura Cullen, 17, is in fifth year at St Clare’s Comprehensive, Manorhamilton.

“The app I most use is Instagram, otherwise YouTube and art-sharing websites. I used to be on Facebook but there’s limited privacy.

“I don’t like the way social networking sites perpetuate the idea that you need to have a say on whatever you like and that there’s no consequence to what you say online.

“I’m very much in favour of technology. Websites don’t bully people —other people do. I’m involved in the Webwise youth panel.

“It’s mostly around raising awareness through competitions and sending posters to schools.

“It’s difficult to say how many hours a day I spend online. I feel it’s a very continuous thing — even though you have your phone down or in your pocket, it’s continuously picking up information online.”

Oisín Bowyer, 14, is in third year at Carndonagh Community School. “Here in Donegal we’ve had two suicides related to cyber-bullying.

“It’s important to do something. I’m an ambassador for Safer Internet Day. I spend two hours max a day online — below the average.

“I like Facebook — I think it’s more mature. Some young people are very naïve. The internet is a very open space.

“Everything you say can come back to haunt you. It’s important to think before you post that picture or hit that send button.”

A transition-year student at Deele College, Raphoe, Co Donegal Sean Murphy is 16. “I use Facebook a lot and Snapchat. I like that I can talk to my brothers in Australia or someone down the road in an instant.

AS we gear up for Safer Internet Day on Tuesday, 15,000 students in 100 schools across Ireland are running awareness-raising events around cyber-bullying.

“I’m not particularly a fan of the selfie — I don’t have the chiselled face other guys would envy!

“I use an alias to get around [future] employers seeing stuff about me. I’m definitely aware around cyber-bullying — I’d be pretty abrupt about stopping talking to people who’d consider taking an aggressive or mocking manner with me.

“I’m on the Webwise panel — I’ve always been an activist around keeping others safe and getting involved in school mentoring programmes.”

On Monday, Webwise will launch ‘MySelfie – Primary Anti-Cyber Bullying’, a curriculum resource targeted at fifth and sixth class primary students.

“It’s a series of short animations that provide starting points for classroom discussions around emotions driving bullying, emotional impact on victims and how children can be agents for positive change in relation to bullying.

Be safe online

* Be the one to introduce your child to the Internet. Together, find exciting, fun websites — makes it easier to share both positive and negative experiences in future.

* Agree with child rules for internet use in your home. Discuss when and for how long; how to treat personal info (name, address, telephone, email); how to behave towards others when online; what type of sites/activities are OK/not OK in your family.

* Teach social networking teens how to use privacy or security settings of a site. All responsible sites have a safety centre and a block and reporting system.

* Talk about risks of meeting online ‘friends’ in person. Children shouldn’t meet strangers they’ve met online without parental approval and without accompaniment by adult, friends or others they trust.

* Teach child about evaluating and being critically aware of online information. Not all is correct, accurate or relevant.

* Avoid being over-critical of your child’s internet exploration. If they come across adult material, open discussion about the content and make rules for this kind of activity.

* Encourage respect for others — being polite, using correct language, not yelling (writing in capital letters) or harassing others.

* Let your child show you what he likes to do online.

* Positive aspects of the internet outweigh the negatives — there are millions of age-appropriate sites for younger children. Encourage child to use these.