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Education

What is cyberbullying?

Beat the Cyberbully expert explains the importance of safety on the web

2015_askaug
© ITP Images

If being a young kid facing the daily challenges of school isn’t tough enough, imagine being a young kid who is also the victim of a bully online. We talk to Barry Cummings, chief awareness officer at Beat the Cyberbully, for his advice on how kids can stay safe while on the web.

What is cyberbullying?
The use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. It is ‘traditional’ bullying taken to another platform. Singling out, defaming or making an individual feel uncomfortable in their own skin. The major difference with cyberbullying is the fact that mobile phone penetration is so high, that unlike ‘traditional’ bullying that may have stopped after school. Cyberbullying can be constant. As long as you are connected, it can be happening.

Who can it affect?
Cyberbullying can affect just about anybody using the online arena. It’s called cyberbullying when we are referring to ages five to 21.

What age range of kids could fall victim of cyberbullying?
As aforementioned, anyone of any age with access to the internet and social channels can fall prey to cyberbullies.

How do people bully online?
There are a variety of different forms of cyberbullying:
• Outing
• Masquerading
• Anonymity
• Harassment
• Flaming

What advice can be given to a child who feels they are being bullied?
The only advice we can give is to talk to someone. You are not alone in this situation and you would be surprised just how many people have gone through some sort of bullying. There is no shame in being bullied and we have to move away from this stigma - it is not ‘grassing’, ‘telling tales’ or ‘snitching’ the worst thing you can do is keep it all inside. The trick is finding someone to talk to and this is where it’s so important for adults, parents, teachers and care givers to get their levels of understanding to a level where they can be the trusted resource a young person turns to when they are experiencing cyberbullying.

What action can be taken?
We advocate not responding to cyberbullying attacks. Bullying is about power and by responding you put the power straight back in the hands of the bully. If you are on the receiving end of a cyberbullying attack, collect the evidence of the messages wherever possible. Evidence is key. The initial approach will always be to try and resolve these situations between those parties involved, unfortunately with anonymity online, this can sometimes be impossible. So we need to collate the evidence.

Is there any advice schools give out?
Schools do a lot of work to help address the issue. They have been addressing the issue of cyberbullying for quite some time now and we know of schools that introduce this at year 7 and have spoken to those children and the message has definitely been learned. There are amazing curriculum provided by the likes of Common Sense media, as well but we at BTCB tend to focus not just on the cyberbullying element, but more into the online reputation and further reaching repercussions of your online actions in your later life when thinking about going to university or getting your first job.

How can parents protect their kids?
The first thing they have to do is get their own levels of education and awareness up. There is a huge divide between parents and children today. Mainly because children are digital natives growing up in a digital world and parents/adults/teachers are digital dinosaurs. This digital world did not exist when they were younger, as such it’s difficult to guide or be a trusted resource in a world you don’t understand. The Beat The Cyberbully initiative is a good place to start, to get an insight into the world your children are growing up in. It’s not going back to pen and paper, as much as we might want it to. Therefore our job as parents is to prepare our children for the world they are going to grow up and eventually work in.

Tell us about the campaign.
Beat The Cyberbully is a not for profit initiative that was launched nearly four years ago in the UK and Ireland by Wayne Denner. We officially launched in the UAE in February 2014 - its purpose is to raise awareness and education levels around the digital arena. We focus on positive use of this amazing tool we have at our disposal, with core focus on cyberbullying, online misuse and online reputation. Our aim is to get people consciously thinking about what they are doing online, to keep them safer and allow them to use this tool to build the lives they want. It’s that powerful, we just need to use it the right way.

Is there any advice schools give out?
Schools do a lot of work to help address the issue. They have been addressing the issue of cyberbullying for quite some time now and we know of schools that introduce this at year 7 and have spoken to those children and the message has definitely been learned. There are amazing curriculum provided by the likes of Common Sense media as well but we at BTCB tend to focus not just on the cyberbullying element, but more into the online reputation and further reaching repercussions of your online actions in your later life when thinking about going to University or getting your first job.

How can parents protect their kids?
The first thing they have to do is get their own levels of education and awareness up. There is a huge divide between parents and children today. Mainly because children are digital natives growing up in a digital world and parents/adults/teachers are digital dinosaurs. This digital world did not exist when they were younger, as such it’s difficult to guide or be a trusted resource in a world you don’t understand. The Beat The Cyberbully initiative is a good place to start, to get an insight into the world your children are growing up in. It’s not going back to pen and paper, as much as we might want it to. Therefore our job as parents is to prepare our children for the world they are going to grow up and eventually work in.
As Beat The Cyberbully we come into schools to deliver our power packed sessions that bring real life scenarios to cyberbullying and online reputation. We deliver specific sessions to students (age appropriate), parents and teachers too. For more information visit www.beatthecyberbully.ae.

By Time Out Dubai Kids staff
Time Out Dubai,

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