The National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC) at DCU has made all of its resources, supports and guides available free of charge to help young people stay safe online and to support parents and educators who may be concerned.
Speaking about online safety during the current health crisis, Darran Heaney, Projects Manager at the Centre, said:
“The current situation with Covid-19 has demonstrated the importance of technology in our lives. Nonetheless, with a growing reliance on smartphones and as all socialisation now takes place via Skype, Zoom, Instagram, WhatsApp and various other apps, we felt it was important to highlight some of the risks that children and young people can encounter online and remind them and their parents about the supports and resources available to them at this time.”
Dr Tijana Milosevic, whose research at the Centre focuses on social media policies and digital media use among children and youth, added:
“We should not automatically assume that there is a greater incidence of cyberbullying just because there is an increasing reliance on technology during this Covid epidemic. We do not yet have research on the prevalence of cyberbullying in Ireland during these extraordinary times. We would encourage anyone concerned about cyberbullying, sexting, harmful online content or self-cyberbullying/ self-victimisation to explore the various resources available on our websites www.dcu.ie/abc or www.tacklebullying.ie.
For parents and educators at this time, the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre recommends:
- Try to have conversations with your child or children in your class about their perceptions about cyberbullying during this Covid epidemic. Have they noticed a rise or decline in cyberbullying since the onset of the Covid situation? Try to elicit a conversation about why this might be the case and what cyberbullying looks like on various platforms.
- With regards to Sexting, try to discuss the consequences without being dismissive or judgemental of the issue. Remember that sexual exploration is part of adolescent development. Discuss bullying and privacy violations as a possible consequence of sexting and especially the problem with slut shaming and how it violates children’s dignity.
- Since many children who are victimised tend not to report their victimisation to adults, it might be best not to ask them directly as they may not be willing to admit to that or talk about it. Rather, try to start the conversation in more general terms. For example, have you seen cyberbullying among your peers and what does it look like? How do you feel about it? Try to notice any changes in your child’s behaviour. If they are unusually withdrawn or appear to be anxious, that might be a good reason to check in with them and try to initiate a discussion about it.
- You might feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of new apps that your child or the children in your class are using. Check out the App Watch section on our TackleBullying.ie website to get familiarised with some of the new apps and you can use that to start the conversation.
- Have you heard of Houseparty? The video chat and gaming app is growing in popularity, apparently fuelled by the most recent lack of physical contact, especially among teens and young people. Go to TackleBullying.ie for more information.
- Take a look at the resources for parents and teachers provided via ABC’s FUSE project which aims to help educators with addressing bullying and cyberbullying: https://antibullyingcentre.ie/fuse/resources/guides/
- Would you like to help your child report something on social media but you are not sure how to do it on a specific platform? Many popular social media platforms have special sections of their websites where you can become familiar with how to report, with many other helpful tips. They are typically called Safety Centres, see, e.g. here: https://about.instagram.com/community/parents#privacy and https://www.facebook.com/safety and https://help.instagram.com/285881641526716
- Some of the services working on digital wellbeing have produced valuable resources for parents, young people and teachers, check out the work of SpunOut: https://spunout.ie/ and the new digital media literacy program by Webwise called Connected: https://www.webwise.ie/connected/
To access the above information or other resources, visit https://antibullyingcentre.ie/free-resources/
www.tacklebullying.ie is a national anti-bullying website provided by ABC with support from the Department of Education and Skills.