Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Are you the parent of a cyberbully?

Come on hands up  do you really know what your kids are saying online? Can you honestly say you know what they are doing? What they are posting? Do you even know if your kid's online or not?
I didn't know my eldest was online.
I didn't know he was on Instagram.
I didn't know he'd got himself into a situation - one that was rapidly becoming toxic.
For heck's sake he's only 10!
I thought I was being so clever. I thought I had it all under control. I had given him an iPod what, two years ago... I had it so that it was essentially registered to me and anything he added to it would always show up on my account and on my iPad.
I had the usual buying apps without asking, sneaking face time with Granny  at 10pm on a school night, playing games when he should have been doing homework/sleeping/getting ready for school but I had not had him actually on-line for real.
But things change...
At the end of last term The Boy's two best mates left the school and while I was concerned I knew he'd be fine. He gets on with everyone.
What I had not expected was that he'd start to try too hard in an effort to fit in and be accepted. So last week  they were all off on a day trip and during the bus journey there the kid persuaded him to join Instagram. Of course he was flattered and everyone gave him their tags and he started to follow them all. He watched what they did and tried to join in. But he doesn't  really know the etiquette and made a classic blunder.
He tagged a whole load of kids when he uploaded a photo of himself with his fingers pointing like a gun at his head. He didn't realise he should have pout a witty one liner caption on the photo or that he possibly should not have tagged all and sundry.
The first response was why did you tag me, then there was another why, then a child said the photo was the most cringeworthy photo they had ever seen, the next was about perhaps The Boy wanted to kill them, there were a whole load more who kept asking why were they tagged. There were a lot of blank/angry/puzzled emoticons and The Boy was overwhelmed and did not understand. He said he came in peas and got a more grief for poor spelling.
Basically the situation started to go toxic and The Boy brooded. Kept  stealing looks at the comments trying to figure out what he had done wrong. And it was when he stole the iPod on evening that I caught him and found out what was going on. Found out that I had had no idea that he was online.
I don't think the kids he was online to really understood that they were taking things out of proportion or how much hurt they cased. It was a kind of pack mentality - but we know that it has to start somewhere. And for me this is a wake up call.
If half the parents realised what their kids were saying and doing online I very much doubt that half the children would be allowed.
I told the school to watch my son; I have taken him off Instagram until he can handle it. I am never going to get complacent again...
My approach now is three pronged.
School - when they talk about Cyberbullying and what you should do to make yourself safe online I suggested that they also talk about how to behave online.
The Boy - I am going to organise for him to be taught (along with me and his father) how to use Instgram/Twitter etc and how to behave online and what to do when faced with problems such as this, how to report bad behaviour and also how to minimise damage caused.
Parents - I am going to ask that worst question in the world that any parent can be asked: Is your Child a Cyberbully? Are they or could they be part of a pack that sends another child over the edge? Do you know what your children are saying/doing online? And the biggest of all: if you don't know why not!!!!!


Little Red Hen said...

We had to block internet access on Boy's ipod. He's still not interested in social media yet but he plays sneaky games of minecraft after lights out. My fear is that he could stumble across heaven's knows what kind of website. He only gets on the internet on the laptop which sits in the dining room where we all walk past. It's all very worrying.

Expat mum said...

This is why my ten year old does none of it - they're not old enough to handle what could happen.

Tattie Weasle said...

Little Red Hen - The Boy doesn't seem to surf as yet but with growing pressure from his peer group I think I may have to take action. It is such a pain!!!
Expat Mum - I find it difficult I want him to be tech savvy but at the same time agree he is far too young to be on firms etc. think I will block him from internet except on the family computer where we can monitor until he's a bit more mature - whenever that will be he is a boy after all!!!

Tattie Weasle said...

forums not firms....

mrsnesbitt said...

Our youngest nephew moved in with my MIL..........then he got a laptop...........internet.......no supervision...HELL! In the 25 years we've been married never heard Jon argue with his mum.......until nephew moved in!

Expat mum said...

For the same reason my older kids' computer was out on the landing between their bedrooms and they weren't allowed any Internet access in their rooms. Fortunately, even when they first had phones, they weren't smart phones so I didn't have to worry about that.
We bought the little guy an I-Pod for Xmas so that he can download music for his drum practice. Despite much pressure, I resisted buying him the more expensive one with all the games on (and potential Internet access) and I will ne monitoring his I-Tunes account.
I don't think you can be too careful when they're young.

Tattie Weasle said...

Mrs Nesbitt - Problem is its such a generational divide. While I use computers and use the internet for work etc my parents never had to so using it is quite a major step, understanding it must be like learning heiroglyphs! Almost alien!! I am so in awe of silver surfers...
Expat Mum - I'm in with the school tomorrow as I alerted them to the fact that the children in Year 6 were on Instagram. We have an internet safety day for the school on the 11th and I want to know what it is going to cover and if they will talk about interenet safety as well as how to behave if they are on line.
I am trying to work out how as a parent I can be a bit more savvy too.

Rob-bear said...

This is sad, but an important learning experience for all of us. Our grandson, aged 10, who spends quite a bit of time with us, is just learning the basics of a computer. Like how to use a program for writing documents. NO internet access. His father and I agree on that.

I hope you can work through this acceptably.

Blessings and Bear hugs!

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Talking to a friend the other day , I heard a rather alarming story about her daughter's class . When one of the boys lost his smart phone , just before the weekend , the rest of the class commiserated . So , when a few got messages from him later they replied , pleased that he'd found it .
Then they got very strange photos ...
Luckily they were all a little older , but it's still a danger everyone needs to be very aware of .

Sian To said...

Great post. I've just written an article for a mag about kids on social networks ands after all of my research I am 100% sure that it's us, as parents that need to educate our kids about how to be online safely.
If that means educating ourselves first, then that can only be a good thing.
This generation are the first to have been born into a digital world. They don't know of a time without computers or the internet and their digital skills will soon outstrip our. they are wired for it.

I honestly don't think that blocking and banning is the answer. As a parent I would rather be totally aware of their activity than it being a secret.

The internet isn't to be feared if used in the right way.

Vodafone do a magazine called Digital Parenting that is brilliant. I will tweet you a download link rather than spamming your comments.

Suburbia said...

I'm a friend to both kids facebook pages and my daughters instagram. I trust them - but can you ever really know? Mine are older though I guess.

Procrastinator extraodinaire said...

Hello again, it's been a while. Sian to is right, I think. Whilst it is easier to police younger children's internet activity it becomes impossible as they get older. The bullying issues still happen and just like in the real world where bullies exist and unfortunately always will I think the onus is on us to somehow help our off spring deal with it. P.S done the enforced friend thing but be aware they can run more than one account. Ultimately you just have to trust them.

Anyway, Sorry it has happened to your son. My eldest has run into problems on a few occasions too, his brother no. If it is any consolation older and wiser he is learning to 'fit in' but for some children it is harder and all the advice in the world doesn't help just being there to comfort or being the battering ram for their anger is ultimately what you have to do. IMHO, being older and wiser myself now, but still learning lol.

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It is time that people started waking up to what is around them.

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