Children suffering ‘cyber-bullying’ may not tell their parents because they are afraid their phone, ipad or laptop could be confiscated, an expert declared.
Dr Conor McGuckin said mothers and fathers cannot always presume their child is not being bullied on social media just because they have not been informed.
Children and young teenagers may often choose to suffer in silence rather than tell their parents or teachers.
Parents seeking to help their child deal with cyberbullying need to admit to their child their own lack of understanding of social media and the internet, he said.
This admission may help a parent to have an open conversation about the problem. It is important to make the child feel understood, said Dr McGuckin, a world expert on bullying problems.
Dr McGuckin, assistant professor in educational psychology at Trinity College, Dublin, said that, unlike schoolyard bullying, four out of 10 victims of cyber-bullying respond “instanteously.”
However, rather than reacting immediately to bullying messages, it may be better to “slow down, think about it, and cool off,” he said.
It may be better to switch off the technology, to ignore it, and to seek the advice and support of parents, teachers, and friends, he said.
A parent may find it is better to have an open conversation with a child about a cyber bullying problem while on a short journey by car which would not necessitate direct eye contact, he said.
Teachers are now obliged to deal with cyberbullying under their school’s anti-bullying policy. Since last Friday, all schools in Ireland must have a policy which specifically addresses dealing with cyber-bullying and homophobia, he said.
Dr McGuckin was scheduled to address a ‘Cyber-Ethics Public Forum’ at Trinity College tonight.
The forum was set up to explore the rapid growth of cyber technologies and the profound influence of the internet on human behaviour. It was organised as part of the college’s President of Ireland's Ethics Initiative.
He focused on how to help children, adults, and educators ‘cope' with the both positive and negative issues that new technology brings.
He said: “To understand cyberbullying, we need to understand the fundamental characteristics of traditional bullying. But we also need to understand the separate, and thorny, issues that are related to the law, technology, marketing, and the modern lives of children and young people.