When a bully uses the internet as a tool to abuse someone, this is known as cyber bullying or online bullying. As a parent, guardian or carer it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand internet technology, you can still help your child if they are being bullied online.
Blame the Bully, not the technology
Bullies cause cyber bullying and the internet and technology are tools that they use to help make that happen. Taking away your child’s access to the internet won’t necessarily solve the problem. That said, your child may wish to stop using social networks or other things for a while and all of that will need to be talked about and agreed by you and your child together.
Consider if and how you will respond to the bully
Bullies want a reaction of any kind so we suggest to children and young people that they don’t respond at all to online bullies but to report them and block them instead, and to talk to someone they can trust about it. You may want to respond to the bully. If that’s the case, do this when you have had time to consider what your want to say calmly and carefully.
You may want to explain to the bully that you’re now aware of what’s been going on, have saved the evidence of the bullying and have/or are going to report them to the website or social network they have been using, their school (if they are a child and you know them), their parents (if you know them) or the police if you think what’s happening is serious enough.
Save the evidence
Save the bullying if possible for evidence. This could include saving text messages or keeping a record of what’s been happening online. If the bullying is happening online but you can’t save it due to the system that’s been used you can use something called ‘print screen’ or ‘screen capture’ to copy information into a document and save that separately as evidence. If you’re not sure how to do this you can search for instructions online.
Use Reporting Facilities
Many social networks allow users to ‘report abuse’ and ‘block’ users. As a parent, guardian or carer you may want to encourage your child to find out (if they don’t already know) how they can report someone online so that they feel confident to do it if they need to. It’s also important for children to understand the need to report people for cyber bullying before they ‘block them’ so that action can be taken.
Get your school involved
If you think your child is being bullied online by someone from their school contact the school. Individual schools will have their own policies on bullying / cyber bullying. Whatever the policy if your child is being bullied by someone from their school or someone they don’t know, they may need support of some kind during school hours.
If the bully is from your child’s school that may need some support too so by making a report, you can help. Although each case is different, generally schools should make it very clear what their approach is to bullying (including online bullying).
The following parental control checklists have been created by the South West Grid for Learning…
Any form of bullying can make a child feel alone. Cyber bullying can happen day and night, on school days and weekends. This can be not only upsetting but really tiring. Keep talking with your child to reassure them and let them know that they are not to blame.
When to contact the police
If you think that the level of bullying is serious and that your child is at risk of harm telephone Devon and Cornwall Police on 101 and ask to speak with your local Police Community Support Officer or Youth Intervention Officer. In an emergency always telephone 999.
Like the offline environment there are laws in the UK that apply online. Although each case is different, cyber bullies shouldn’t be surprised to receive a visit from the police if what they have been doing has resulted in a criminal offence. You can find out more about the law at GOV.UK.
Many gaming devices now mean that children and young people can play online against people they know and people they don’t know (which can include adults). As well as just playing games together people can also interact in other ways. It’s important to make sure that games are suitable for their age and that children understand how they can stay safer.
Online gaming things to think about
- Does my child’s gaming device have parental controls that I can use?
- Who is my child interacting with? Are they adults or children?
- If my child is playing games online with strangers, what types of things can we both do to help make that experience safer?
- What type of language are people using in the games and is it appropriate for my child?
- Does my child understand the risks of sharing personal information (e.g. name, email address, phone number) when gaming?
- Does my child know what to do if they are being bullied by another player?
- Does my child know what to do if another player does something to make them feel uncomfortable or frightened?
- What type of content is my child viewing?
Online gaming things to talk about
If you don’t play online games you might not be sure how to talk about gaming with your child but there are some things you can ask them like:
- What type of games do you like most? (for example Action, Fantasy, Adventure, Fighting, Racing etc).
- Can you choose the type of character you play in the game?
- What are the characters like?
- What types of things can you do in the game?
- What types of people can you meet in the game?
- What types of things do people like to talk about?
- If someone is being a bully or making you feel uncomfortable, how can you report them in the game?
- Can I have a game with you? (Having a go on the game is a pretty good way to learn, you might have fun but you should probably expect to lose!).
The PEGI system gives age ratings to products to help adults decide if a game is suitable for their child. As well as age ratings, products feature ‘descriptors’ which show why a product has received a certain age rating. For example this might be because it contains violence (including sexual violence), discrimination, depictions of alcohol and drugs, or bad language.
The following links provide safety support and guidance for their respective consoles and devices.
Parental controls are tools that can be used to filter, control and monitor internet activity. Parental controls are one tool that can be used and having them doesn’t mean that regular chats around online activity shouldn’t take place.
Parental controls won’t protect children from issues like cyber bullying, losing control over pictures/videos that they’ve shared or getting a bad online reputation.
Parental controls can be put on televisions, computers, gaming devices and mobile devices like tablets and phones. If you’re not sure how to use (or if you even have) parental controls, contact your service provider and ask them. Not all parental controls are free of charge so you may want to check that out.
Activating parental controls
Internet Matters.org has produced guides to setting up parental controls across a number of platforms. You can find out more by clicking the image.
The following parental control checklists have been created by the South West Grid for Learning…
We’ve been surfing the web to look at a number of websites for companies that provide internet services and find their ‘parental control’ pages. If you’re with one of the following service providers, please visit their website to find out what service is available to you.
Sending nudes, or sexting are the words used to describe the sharing of personal sexual content electronically (Youth Produced Sexual Imagery). The word is a combination of ‘sex’ and ‘texting’.
Why do people sext?
Sexting is usually deliberate (i.e. people choose to do it) and is often when someone takes an intimate or sexually explicit image of themselves and sends it to another person (for example a boyfriend or girlfriend). Although it’s completely natural for young people to want to explore their own sexual identity and their relationships, sexting can be really risky and have very serious consequences.
Sexting and the law
If anyone under the age of 18 is sexting (i.e. sending indecent images of themselves), they’re also breaking the law. You can find out more about sexting and the law on the Think You Know website but in brief it’s a criminal offence to:
TAKE an indecent image of someone under the age of 18 (which includes someone taking an image of themselves).
MAKE an indecent image of someone under 18 (i.e. copy it or save it to another device).
SEND an indecent image of someone 18 to another person.
ASK someone under 18 to take an indecent image of themselves.
HAVE an indecent image of someone under 18.
As a parent a good thing to remember about the law is that it is there to protect young people from harm and from being exploited and it’s not designed to punish them for making genuine mistakes.That said, every case is different and is always dealt with based on the circumstances and facts involved.
The Childline website has some great information for children and young people about sexting but it’s a good read for parents too.There are a number of resources for children and parents on sexting and we would always recommend that people search online and speak with others to find good quality information themselves. We think that these resources are also really helpful:
Sexting for parents by the NSPCC
So you got naked online… by the South West Grid for Learning
Talking with your child about sexting
Talking about sex isn’t always easy. Like lots of things though it’s better to talk about a subject before anything happens.Many children and young people don’t fully understand the laws about sexting or some of the consequences. One way to have the conversation at home is to watch and then talk about Exposed (short film) by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.
Peer pressure can be powerful stuff so Childnet has also created the Zipit App to help children and young people keep flirty chat on the right track.
Online sexual chat
If someone is making your child feel uncomfortable about sex you can report them to CEOP. This might be someone:
chatting online with your child about sex
asking your child to do sexual things on a webcam
asking your child to send sexual images of themselves
trying to get your child to meet up with them offline
If this is happening make a report to CEOP. You can also contact Devon and Cornwall Police on telephone 101 (non emergency calls) or 999 (emergency calls only).
What is CEOP?
CEOP is the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Team within the National Crime Agency. They exist to help children and young people who are being approached online about sex or being sexually abused.
Sharing nudes and semi-nudes
Advice for education settings working with children and young people Responding to incidents and safeguarding children and young people
This advice is for designated safeguarding leads (DSLs), their deputies, headteachers and senior leadership teams in schools and educational establishments1 in England. Other members of staff should see a one-page summary on how to manage incidents available on the UK Council for Internet Safety’s (UKCIS’) website.
This document may also act as good practice advice for out-of-school settings providing education for children and young people in England e.g. extracurricular clubs, youth organisations and providers.
Sextortion is a form of revenge porn that employs non-physical forms of coercion to extort sexual favours from the victim.
What to do if you’re a victim of sextortion
If someone threatens to share explicit images of you unless you pay them money:
- Dont panic. Contact your local police and internet service provider immedaitely. The police will take your case seriously, will deal with it in confidence and will not judge you for being in this situation.
- Don’t communicate further with the criminals. Take screen shots of all your communication. Suspend your Facebook account (but don’t delete it) and use the online reporting process to report the matter to Skype, YouTube etc. to have any video blocked and to set up an alert in case the video resurfaces. Deactivating the Facebook account temporarily rather than shutting it down will mean the data are preserved and will help police to collect evidence. The account can also be reactivated at any time so your online memories are not lost forever. Also, keep an eye on all the accounts which you might have linked in case the criminals try to contact you via one of those.
- Don’t pay. Many victims who have paid have continued to get more demands for higher amounts of money. In some cases, even when the demands have been met the offenders will still go on to post the explicit videos. If you have already paid, check to see if the money has been collected. If it has, and if you are able, then make a note of where it was collected from. If it hasn’t, then you can cancel the payment – and the sooner you do that the better.
- Preserve evidence. Make a note of all details provided by the offenders, for example; the Skype name (particularly the Skype ID), the Facebook URL; the Western Union or MoneyGram Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN); any photos/videos that were sent, etc. Be aware that the scammer’s Skype name is different to their Skype ID, and it’s the ID details that police will need. To get that, right click on their profile, select ‘View Profile’ and then look for the name shown in blue rather than the one above it in black. It’ll be next to the word ’Skype’ and will have no spaces in it. DO NOT DELETE ANY CORRESPONDENCE.