Parenting Fears: Cyber Bullying

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my gorgeous 5yo

After recently discovering that my five year old daughter, who is in Year One, was being bullied by two boys in her class, my thoughts started drifting back to the days when the dreaded B word was all-encompassing for me. I moved around a lot when I was a kid, and by the time I left home I’d had over a dozen addresses. I feel this made me an easy target for bullies, and towards the end of my school career, I had suffered badly because of them.

At my very lowest ebb I attempted suicide by taking an overdose of painkillers – a classic cry for help. As fate would have it, shortly after this happened an incident with another bully (my step-father) was the catalyst for me leaving home at 15. I had it rough, there is no denying that, but I grew up in a different era. I didn’t even get my first mobile phone until I was sixteen. I’ve often wondered how much more horrendous things would have been back then had the bullies been able to follow me into my home, and continue their torment online via social media, over email, chat and phone text.

It’s not an over exaggeration to say that the recent Izzy Dix case terrified me to my very core. A beautiful, intelligent 14 year old, who was close to her family, was driven to suicide because she felt she could no longer cope with another day of the suffering inflicted upon her. She was bullied terribly for three years after returning to the UK from Australia, and took her own life just two weeks into the new school year in 2013.

Following this, her mother Gabbi campaigned to have the popular website Ask.fm shut down. Her petition gathered over 140,000 signatures, was taken to Westminster, and resulted in Ask.com buying Ask.fm. Their new CEO made vital changes to the way the site works, has cracked down on bullying and made it an overall safer place to be on. A small victory in the face of such tragedy, but a victory none the less. Izzy’s memorial page on Facebook is full of useful information about how to support someone that is being bullied.

A big part of me hopes that things will have changed by the time my own kids want to go online independently. As innocent as it may seem to a child to set up an Instagram account, or communicate with their friends on Snapchat, us parents know the potential dangers of doing so. According to recent research, top of the list of worries are bullying and grooming. There is much to consider, and I know my hubby and I will need to ensure we are always one step ahead of the game. We’ve still got a few years to work out a strategy, but safety awareness will be high up on the agenda. 

We’ll be encouraging them to be completely open and honest about their online usage, but I doubt that’ll be enough. As nice an idea as it might seem to give them full control and trust their decision making, I think that in reality they will need our guidance until they are well into their teen years. I know some parents keep lists of passwords to their kids’ social media accounts, and do random checks to make sure nothing untoward is going on, and we will probably follow this path too. Meanwhile we have to do our very best to ensure that we equip them with the resources they need to cope with this crazy world. A place that can be so cruel and unjust.

The NSPCC website has some brilliant advice on how to combat bullying and cyber bullying, which is well worth checking out.

Is cyber bullying on your radar yet or do you have similar thoughts to the ones swirling around in my head? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. 

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37 Comments

  1. mummytries
    Author
    September 13, 2015 / 6:58 pm

    Love that, nuclear list! It would definitely be on ours too…

  2. September 9, 2015 / 3:15 pm

    AskFM is on the nuclear option list here. The teen gets caught on it, the phone goes immediately and indefinately

  3. March 8, 2015 / 8:23 am

    Cyber bullying is the one thing that frightens me the most – as in our parents’ day this was non existent. I just hope, like you, to be open and honest and warn him of the dangers. He already loves watching you tube… and is so confident on the iPad, I worry about what he might stumble across. I also hope he’d confide in me if he was being bullied. I’ll take a look at those sites for advice, so thanks for pointing me in the right direction. xx

  4. mummytries
    Author
    March 7, 2015 / 2:10 pm

    It’s just terrifying isn’t it hon! Thankfully we still have a few years yet before having to deal with it…

  5. mummytries
    Author
    March 7, 2015 / 2:06 pm

    Same here, I really hope we see positive change before it properly on our radar xx

  6. mummytries
    Author
    March 7, 2015 / 2:03 pm

    I think sharing ideas is the only thing we can do. It’s such uncharted territory for us oldies who grew up in a world before Google!!

  7. March 6, 2015 / 4:44 pm

    I cana ppreciate all your words and thoughts as I have recently entered the word of social media with my eldest daughter – 10 years old. We’ve restrictions in place and limited to only what’s app and Ovoo but still I fear about bullying. it’s too easy for kids to get dragged along with the crowd. I only hope she does as she says she will and come to us should anything ever happen online that worries her. Thanks for sharing – brave of you. I’ve also blogged about this theme and received support for talking about it. Thanks again.

  8. March 6, 2015 / 1:03 pm

    #PoCoLo

  9. March 6, 2015 / 12:29 pm

    I’m hoping that I’ve got a few more years until this becomes a problem for me- although with the technological age well and truly in full swing, it does worry me that my eldest will become a victim much earlier than she should 🙁 x

  10. March 6, 2015 / 9:59 am

    Oh dear cyber bullying scares the day lights out of me. I fear when my kids get online and I don’t know how I will be with them with it. If I will restrict it or try my best to teach them all about it. I am just too scared of it to think of it at this stage. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

  11. March 6, 2015 / 8:50 am

    Our older son has just reached 13 and has asked for a Facebook account. So we have sat and talked about what this means, how he should use the account and what could go wrong. He has agreed to let me have full access to his account and I will be his “Friend” for the reasons others have outlined in earlier comments. I may need to up my game reading teenage French mind you. We live in a world where social media cannot really be escaped from, even out here in rural France, but I hope that by talking through things with him and being open with him as he sets off down this new path that he will stay safe and get all the benefits that Facebook et al offers. #PoCoLo

  12. March 6, 2015 / 8:03 am

    This is something that really worries me. Potato isn’t 3 yet but he already has a good grip on how phones and tablets work. By the time he grows up, they’ll be an integral part of his life. The idea that he could get bulled through them is horrible. I’ll be keeping a close eye on him x
    #PoCoLo

  13. March 6, 2015 / 7:14 am

    Thanks for posting on an issue that is a worry for many of us. I recently attended a parents’ session on cyber bullying at our local school, which gave me much to consider. I don’t wish my children to miss out on the wonders of technology, however I’m also quite overwhelmed at the responsibility of keeping them safe while doing so. I hope your own wee daughter gets past her struggles with the bullies. #PoCoLo

  14. March 6, 2015 / 7:04 am

    Very true that children need our guidance longer than we think they do. The problem with cyber bullying is that it doesn’t make itself clearly evident unless it becomes really big. #PoCoLo

  15. March 6, 2015 / 6:54 am

    Like everyone else absolutely scared stiff about cyber bullying and how on earth we protect kids and teenagers. Thanks so much for sharing thoughts and links

  16. March 6, 2015 / 6:45 am

    Thanks for your amazing honesty. Bullying does not care what country you are from. Bullying does not care if you are ugly or pretty. Bullying does not care what nationality your are from. It can hit anyone and we need to teach our children to be honest with us and resilient. Back when I was a child, if I had a bad day at school, I knew when I got home I was safe (at least for the night) but kids now have cyber influences 24/7. hard times.

  17. March 6, 2015 / 6:38 am

    Cyber Bullying isn’t on our radar yet as I’m still very little but it does worry my mummy. The fact that children can bring it home with them in the form of social media frightens her. It’s wrong that it’s so common nowadays 🙁 #PoCoLo

  18. mummytries
    Author
    March 6, 2015 / 6:18 am

    Oh Merlinda, that’s just awful to hear you were bullied by the adults growing up. You’re right, those harsh words leave lifelong scars and chip away at confidence.

    I hope that now you’re adult, and have a gorgeous little family of your own, you are able to see that these words mean nothing. Beauty is subjective, and really beautiful people are nice at their core…

  19. mummytries
    Author
    March 6, 2015 / 6:12 am

    I guess as with all aspects of parenting, everything is gradual. I’m really hoping that by the time they’re independently online, we will have managed to drill safety into their heads. I like your rules hon xx

  20. mummytries
    Author
    March 6, 2015 / 6:08 am

    I’m hearing you! I remember having this exact conversation with one of my best friends a couple of years back – how she dreaded the thought of them not only being bullied but becoming one. I’d never thought of it like that until then…

  21. March 5, 2015 / 2:53 pm

    I was bullied, pretty badly and I would hate for any of my children to be bullied, but I would hate it even more if they became the bully! I just hope – like you – that my children will be able to be honest with me and talk to me about anything and everything!

  22. March 5, 2015 / 1:44 pm

    Completely terrifying subject that I hate to think about!!! We already have a rule in the house that no electronic things go upstairs, they are played with in the living room…even if they have no access to the internet. I hope that way that rule will be the norm and when they get into the internet I will be able to see what they are up to. So tricky though but at least for our children there is more time to prepare. For people with teenagers now it is very tricky since the whole social media thing has only really exploded in the last few years. I hope we will know more about how to protect our children by the time we need to…

  23. March 5, 2015 / 12:01 pm

    My son is the smallest and one of the youngest in school. Sometimes he would go home sad as the other kids wont play with him or is a bit rough on him. Its not even bullying but it hurts to hear this. I can only imagine how much more painful it is to find out that your child is being bullied.

    I too grew up with bullying not from kids but adults who would call me the ugly one in my family. My sister is pretty. And that feeling. The feeling that i dont want my son to feel.

    Bullying is happening almost every day and its effect on the victims (for me at least) is lasting. I hope that when my son grows up the world would have less of it,

    #sharewithme

  24. March 4, 2015 / 9:32 pm

    Gosh, where to start. I have four children aged 18 – 2 years old. Luckily the older ones are quite ‘savvy’ online, and we talk a lot about bullying in all its forms. I have recently realised that my eldest has been bullied (I have never thought of it like that) by my ex (her step father) which has almost driven her to the edge of life. She is getting ‘better’ slowly. The most important thing is keeping the communication open between us. I have been actively supporting the NSPCC campaigns through my other blog, Ickle Pickles Life. Great post, I have so much admiration for your strength , Kaz x x

  25. March 4, 2015 / 8:50 pm

    Cyber bullying scares me to death. We have had similar cases in the US of children as young as 11 taking their own lives because of cyber bullying. It’s really sad and I worry about my children all the time. I moved around a lot as a kid as well and was bullied, but when it happened I didn’t even consider it bullying. Nowadays some kids are vicious and know no boundaries. I’m sorry your daughter is being bullied. I hope things get better for her. Great post and kudos to you for being brave and sharing your story. I will share this with as many people as I can because it’s an important issue to bring awareness to I think. All the best. #sharewithme

  26. March 4, 2015 / 1:43 pm

    Such a brave post, such a brave woman! As a mum, I fear this for my daughter. While she isn’t being bullied at school and kids and everyone else seems to like her, I still fear that one day it might happen to her. I hope that the day will come when no one will ever experience being bullied. #sharewithme. x

  27. March 4, 2015 / 1:43 pm

    Gwenn isn’t even two and we’ve already talked about whether we would let her have a Facebook account, Instagram, mobile phone etcetera etcetera. It’s a tough one because things move do quickly and who knows what the social media scene will be by the time she’s at school, but as it stands I would rather she didn’t have any social media profiles until she was out of school. I have heard some awful awful things from friends and family who teach, and my cousin, who is a police officer, said it felt like 90% of her call-outs to disturbances/fights/domestics were to do with “so and so said this on Facebook”. I’m possibly an over-sharer (classic baby bore!!) but I am never talk about my husband or friends or family in a negative way and I never air my grievances (unless it’s public transport related of course!!!) on social media. There’s a time and a place and I don’t think Facebook is an appropriate outlet.

    So, all in all, I have a love-hate relationship because I use social media, but I am very VERY wary of the influence it can have on vulnerable children and adolescents.

    x

    #sharewithme

  28. March 4, 2015 / 10:35 am

    Cyber bullying is terrifying. The thought you can never be left alone, or ever feel secure and happy, not even in your own home, is scary indeed. We really have to teach our children to be careful about what they post online, because whatever goes online stays there forever. It does not come off. I am glad I grew up before all that technology was at our fingertips. I was 18 the first time I turned on the Internet, and there wasn’t that much then on the World Wide Web! Educating our children is crucial, but just like bullies in the playground, they could become prey to bullies online. No social networking for the little ones anytime soon! x

  29. March 4, 2015 / 7:16 am

    Cyber bullying is such a scary thought – having the bullies being able to be there constantly is truly horrible. Internet usage is not something I’ve had to consider yet – Jessica is only occasionally allowed to use the iPad to play selected games or watch CBeebies on the iPlayer. My nieces have started to use social media now though so hopefully I’ll be able to get some advice from my sister when my two are old enough for me to have to negotiate this minefield with them.

  30. mummytries
    Author
    March 3, 2015 / 8:04 pm

    So much to consider! Thanks for your email lovely 🙂

  31. mummytries
    Author
    March 3, 2015 / 8:03 pm

    Utterly fascinating and terrifying in equal measure Sam. Thank goodness we still have a while to come up with a plan of action…

  32. mummytries
    Author
    March 3, 2015 / 8:01 pm

    That’s definitely a good reason to keep kids names off blogs. And I like the idea of being on the kids’ social media pages, you’re right it would make them think twice wouldn’t it. It is such a minefield and utterly terrifying…

  33. mummytries
    Author
    March 3, 2015 / 7:13 pm

    You’re completely right Tim. I think fear of not being believed, or being misunderstood by their folks, leads to kids keeping secrets and secrets are so dangerous. Drilling it into them to be open and honest is top of my priority list. Although that’s easier said than done I know, because mine are so small.

    Cyber bullying is utterly terrifying because it’s unchartered territory for us oldies who were born way before Google was created… Really hope things calm down over the next few years!

  34. March 3, 2015 / 4:59 pm

    It’s something I’ve always been both aware and wary of. Isaac and Toby are very internet-savvy – they’re both regular YouTube users and Isaac’s just discovered email – and I’m discreetly keeping an eye both on their online activities and what’s happening to them at school. One of our best weapons to safeguard against bullying of any kind is, I think, to simply watch and listen carefully, and trust our instincts if we think something may be amiss.

    I was (mildly) bullied as a child and took some physical beatings from older kids. I don’t want the same to happen to my kids – and the threat of cyber bullying terrifies me because it’s not something that leaves obvious physical bruises.

  35. March 2, 2015 / 8:29 am

    This does frighten me a little but we encourage Mushroom to stand up for himself at nursery and talk to teachers if he feels he’s been picked on. The Bully and the Shrimp from Parragon Books was a good book to get this conversation going. As he’s only (almost) four I haven’t thought too much about online stuff yet. One of the reasons Mr B and I don’t use his real name online though, is so that stuff I write about him now isn’t searchable later. I don’t know if that will help but when he decides to go online himself we will discuss with him how to stay safe (and how we’ll help him with that!). I know a few people whose teenage kids are only allowed on Facebook and Twitter on the condition that they are friends with/follow their parents so that they never tweet/post anything without considering that their Mum/Dad might see it!

  36. March 1, 2015 / 10:17 pm

    I think this is one of my number one fears about my kids growing up – I read enough about this through my job – real people, plenty of technology being misused. I was fascinated by what the panel had to say on the subject at Blogfest last year. I don’t think anyone has the perfect answer. We will definitely need to work out a strategy too when the time comes. It stresses me out just thinking about it!

  37. March 1, 2015 / 9:23 pm

    I don’t do random checks on two grounds. One is that it would be a bit like turning up at a party my kids were at just to check everything out. The second is how do you know that your kids have given you all the passwords to all the sites they use? There are about 101 different places out there! My kids are quite behind the times in only having Facebook.
    Actually, I will send you an email because this has just reminded me of something!

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