Cyberbullying: How To Protect Your Children?
Young people who own a smartphone and have accounts on social networks are at risk of online harassment. If you're a parent, the best prevention is to be aware of this danger and talk to your kids about it. Here's a handy guide to protecting your kids from cyberbullying.
Be aware of the risk
Today, children and teenagers spend a lot of time online, via their phones or computers.
They also share a lot of content (especially photos and videos) on social networks and networked games.
It is worth noting that 78% of 12-17 year olds who own a smartphone have at least one account on social networks like Instagram or Snapchat.
Yet, this is enough to expose them to the risk of cyberbullying, a scourge that is much more common than you might imagine... Indeed, it is estimated that 10% of the European population has been or will be bullied on the Internet!
As in 'real life', harassment is when a person suffers verbal and/or moral abuse (nasty nicknames, insults, mockery, humiliation, death threats, spreading rumours or personal information, rejection from the group...) repeatedly.
The term 'cyberstalking' is used when this violence is carried out on social networks, by SMS or email.
Even if cyber-violence takes place virtually online, it is important to be aware that it has serious repercussions in real life: lowering of school results or dropping out of school, loss of self-esteem, unhappiness, suicidal thoughts etc.
Keep yourself informed about the functioning of these networks
To spot cyberbullying situations, it is essential for parents to learn about how social networks work.
While it's not always easy to keep up with the latest, keeping yourself informed about the apps your kids are using will help you :
=> discuss it with them
=> teach them good online practices
=> detect possible harassment situations (bullying, harassment or threats).
Teenagers, who are at an age when they want to fit in with the group, tend not to be suspicious of social networks. It is therefore up to parents to be vigilant and alert them to the risks of the Internet.
Talk about it with your children at an early age
Don't wait until your children are grown and equipped with smartphones to do prevention.
On the contrary, you should talk to them about cyberstalking before they are teenagers.
So, if your child asks you to give them a smartphone for Christmas or their birthday, take the opportunity to bring up the subject!
Explain to them what online bullying is and teach them how to spot 'trolls', those harassers who are all the more violent for hiding behind their screens.
'In real life, harassers would not dare say a quarter of what they write on the web', explains Samuel Comblez, director of operations at e-Enfance, the French association for the protection of children on the Internet.
This is why this form of harassment is incredibly violent, especially for young people who do not yet have enough maturity and self-confidence to defend themselves.
Be aware of signs of discomfort
Perhaps your child won't dare to tell you about the abuse he or she is experiencing on the Internet... So stay alert and react without delay if you notice any of the following signs:
=> your child withdraws into himself
=> he has unusual reactions when he checks his phone
=> he seems anxious and/or tired
=> he/she has sleep problems or eating disorders.
These signs should alert you to the fact that your child may be a victim of bullying at school or cyberbullying.
Do not hesitate to call 3020 or Net Ecoute
If your child is being cyberbullied, remember that the first thing to do is talk about it.
Talk to your child, reassure them and explain that adults are there to help them and stop the abuse.
Do not try to deal with the situation yourself or contact the perpetrator as this may make the problem worse.
Instead, turn to the dedicated toll-free numbers: 3020 or 0800 200 000.
The 3020 is a free and anonymous number against bullying at school. The 3020 line is open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 8pm and Saturday from 9am to 6pm for children and young people who are victims of bullying, but also parents and professionals who witness the facts.
At the end of the line, psychologists and education professionals will help you get out of the impasse and find a place near you where you will be listened to and supported.
Net Ecoute, offered by the e-Enfance association on 0800 200 000, is the national toll-free number on the subject. It is intended primarily for children and adolescents who are victims of violence on the Internet. This service is open from Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm and provides completely free and anonymous advice from professionals on the actions to take.
Don't wait to act
Most social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Youtube allow for reporting of cyber abuse, but kids don't always know this.
So you can start by reporting content, messages or comments that harm your child. You can also connect to the Pharos platform (www.internet-signalement.gouv.fr) or the Contact Point site (http://www.pointdecontact.net) to report illegal content.
On the networks concerned, stop replying to messages and block access to all malicious profiles.
Make an appointment with your child's school to report the situation. Find out beforehand about the facts and possible perpetrators and witnesses, and take screenshots of the posted content to have evidence of the abuse.
In the most serious cases, you can file a complaint with the police station or the gendarmerie. Cyberbullying is punishable by law by fines or heavier penalties such as community service or prison.