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 facebook.com.
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.