Most adults nowadays remember a childhood very different to the one most children are experiencing now. One in which more time was spent outside on the playground, rather than in front of a screen. However, times are changing, and technology is evolving, so it’s only natural for the children of today to have other interests. This is exposing them to a different type of bullying – cyber bullying.
There are many other reasons why adults need to be weary of their children’s smartphone activity. From age inappropriate apps, to cyberbullying, your child’s mental and physical health can be in danger if they are left completely to their own devices.
However, there are some simple steps an adult can take in order to protect their children on their smartphones.
Explain the risks to your child
While it’s natural most parents what to believe that their children would not behave inappropriately online, it is important to make them aware of the risks they are facing when using a smartphone or a computer, so they have all the information they need in order to be safe. The risks can be:
- Content deemed inappropriate to children – in fact, a study by GuardChild has revealed that a whopping 70% of children age between 7 – 18 are watching pornography online.
- Predators – unfortunately, children online can be vulnerable to predators, especially as there are certain apps which can reveal information such as their location.
- Sexting – a study researched by Drexel University has revealed that half of the participants said they participated in sexting as teens.
- Cyberbullying – 34% of the participants who took part in a study by Cyberbullying Research Centre have said they experienced cyberbullying as children.
What is cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is harassing, threatening, or targeting a person through the use of technology. The targets of cyberbullying are children or young people. When an adult is experiencing ‘cyberbullying’ the correct term in that case would be cyberstalking or cyber-harassment.
What are the effects of cyberbullying on your child?
Cyberbullying can have long-term effects on those experiencing it, which can go from mild to severe. These can include anxiety, depression or even suicidal thoughts. This is why it is very important to be aware of the signs which might indicate your child is being cyberbullied, so you can stop it in time.
What are the signs of cyberbullying?
Victims of cyberbullying tend to feel ashamed about what is happening to them so more often than not they decide not to speak about it. Hence why it is vital for you as a parent to open your eyes to the subtle signs such as:
- Wanting to avoid school/group gatherings.
- Mood, behaviours, appetite and sleep changes.
- Wanting to isolate itself from friends and family members.
- Acting nervous when using the computer and phone, especially when receiving a notification.
- Suddenly stopping using their computer or phone.
How to protect your child from cyberbullying
It is important to offer your child the support they need if you suspect they might be experiencing cyberbullying. Firstly, it’s good to reassure your child that it’s ok to talk to you about it and praise them for being brave enough to do that. Let them know that it’s not their fault for experiencing something like this and open up to them about the moments where you’ve been in similar situations.
The second step would be to let someone at their school know about the situation, as most schools don’t tolerate such behaviour and might take actions against it. Make sure your child knows you are going to take this step as otherwise it could make the situation worse for his or her mental state.
Some other steps you can take to protect your child from cyberbullying:
- Block the person bullying your child.
- Make sure your child is spending a healthy amount of time using technology as too much can be detrimental for various reasons.
- Befriend your child on social media so you can be a part of their online world, however be careful not to abuse this privilege.
- Talk to them about how important privacy is and take them through the reasons why sharing private information online is not a good idea.
- Set parental controls on their phone
What to do when your child is a bully
This can be a difficult situation for parents, but It’s important to address the problem immediately, not brush it under the rug, as the situation can escalate quickly and get worse.
You need to be firm when talking to your child about their actions, and try to make sure you explain how their actions can negatively impact those they bully. Remind them that bullying is a serious issue and there can be severe consequences both at home and at school, as well as in the community they are being part of, if that behaviour continues.
At what age should a child get their first cell phone?
The answer to this question can differ depending on your child. You will have to make this decision based on their maturity level and depending on whether they really need a phone or not.
Today is not uncommon for children even age six to have a phone. Rather than waiting for your child to hit a certain age in order to give them a phone, what’s more important is to teach them about the ways in which they can be safe using one, before passing one to them, and to keep a subtle eye on how they are using it when they finally have one.
What should my child’s first phone be?
If you are thinking of passing your young child your smartphone, you are better off selling your phone and getting them something more modest. This will not only keep them safer from more technologically advanced apps, but it will put them at a lower risk of theft.
For more information on what to do with your old phone or tablet, check out our blog post.
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