OPINION: Cyberbullying is bullying. It’s using the internet, a mobile phone or other technology like a camera to hurt somebody or embarrass them.
Bullying on the internet or mobiles can include anonymous text messages being sent to your child’s phone, posting nasty or threatening comments on social media, or sending mean or embarrassing photos or videos of them to other people.
Cyberbullying can involve people spreading rumours. It takes many forms and some of these may be harder to deal with than others.
Around one in five NZ high school students say they’ve been cyberbullied and many say it makes them feel scared, depressed, angry or ashamed.
If they get sent nasty messages outside of school time, sometimes it can feel hard to escape the bullying.
Posting mean or nasty pictures or videos of people online can embarrass them in front of their school and spread quickly out of control.
What can your child do to prevent cyberbullying?
* Be careful who they give their mobile number to and don’t pass on friends’ numbers without asking them first.
* Don’t respond to texts from people you don’t know. These can often be sent randomly to find people to bully.
* Don’t post revealing pictures online. They may get sent on and used to bully you or other people.
* Keep your online identity safe - create strong passwords. Don’t share your password with anyone, even your friends.
What can they do if they’re being cyberbullied?
* Tell people they trust - a good friend, a parent, or a teacher. They will want to help you stop the bullying quickly and safely.
* Do not reply to the people bullying them, especially to text messages from numbers they don’t know.
* Save evidence of bullying messages and images. This may be used later if you report the bullying to your school or the police.
* If the bullying online or on your mobile involves physical threats, like threats to hurt, contact the police. Making threats of harm is criminal behaviour.
* Bring in any evidence you have when you meet with the police (messages stored on your phone or printouts of screen shots). If you are worried about your safety contact police immediately.
* If you see that someone is being cyberbullied, contact them and let them know that you support them. This can help them feel less isolated.
* Report the cyberbullying to someone who can help, like an adult you trust or to the website where the bullying is happening. You can do that anonymously if you want to protect your identity.
A really good source of information can be found online at www.cyberbullying.org.nz/youngpeople.
- Inspector Tony Wakelin, Counties Manukau South Police