Protecting your children from cyber bullying during the COVID-19 pandemic

 

Technology has played a huge role in making life easier and keeping communities more connected. With every invention, a hurdle is simplified.  One such breakthrough of technology is the Internet. However, despite the numerous benefits that the Internet has provided the world, it has also come with its own challenges. One of those dark sides of the Internet is cyber bullying.

With the current global closure of schools and stay-at-home measures by the respective governments to contain the spread of corona virus, children are spending their free time at home where the Internet has given them a platform to enjoy watching videos, playing games or interact with their friends via the different social media platforms. However, if not monitored, children can end up being victims of cyber bullying - a vice that has steadily been on the increase in the recent past.

According to a Youth Risk Behavior Survey on Cyber bullying, Mental health and Violence by researchers Mohammed Alhajji, Sarah Bass and Ting Dai, cyber bullying could lead to negative mental health effects such as depression and suicide.

As parents and guardians, the following are some of the ways that can help you protect your children from cyber bullying;  

  • Have appropriate restrictions and permissions on internet use

Avoid giving your children all the freedom to browse any site that they can access. Coming up with guidelines and restrictions assist the parent to monitor and restrict time spent on the internet. For instance, set strong passwords on the internet gadgets such that the children will always seek your permission to use the laptop, tablet or mobile phones. Parental control also allows them to visit child-friendly sites only such as YouTube Kids, kiddle.co and other search engines that create a friendly environment for them.

Parents should also take the initiative of learning how different social media platforms work for instance be able to monitor and guide children appropriately. This will also assist you the parent or caregiver to observe any inappropriate interactions that could lead to your child being bullied online.

With the disruption of learning during this period, make use of a variety of e-learning applications and television and radio shows that offer education programs for all classes. These are great platforms as alternatives to different activities. Most schools are also engaging parents to keep their children occupied by sending classwork via online platforms.

  • Be open to communication with your child

Having a culture of openness with your children is key in understanding their thoughts and interests. They will be free to discuss with you about anything, including the engagements that they are having with their friends online. From these conversations a parent may be able to pick out habits or conversations that are inappropriate. This will also help you to take appropriate action in solving the situation before it escalates. 

Teach your children safety measures when using the internet such as not engaging with strangers online. Make them understand the dangers of sharing their personal information or pictures that could lead to cyber bullying or trolling.

In the instance that your child becomes a target to cyber-bullying, handle the crucial matter in a manner that will not leave a negative effect on your children. While you go through the conversations from the online bullies, let your child also understand that it is better not to respond to cyber bullying threats or messages at any given point. The best response to a cyber-bully is not to respond at all. Offer as much support to your child during this time as possible since cyber bullying cases are on the rise and can leave a negative effect on your child’s mental health.

Besides using the internet, encourage the children to engage in other different activities that will also strengthen the bond with their siblings, parents and caregivers. Activities such as playing board games, house chores, trying out different recipes and Do-It-Yourself crafts will keep them busy and healthy.

During this period, make the best memories with your children. Stay home. Keep safe.

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