Sometimes we can come across other people online who just want us to have a bad time. Some of these people we might know and some of them we might not.
If you are having a bad time online because of the way someone is behaving towards us, there are things we can do to keep ourselves a little safer. It's not a magic wand that will instantly make us feel better, but it might help us to manage these horrible people.
This is one of the hardest things to ask your children to do. Many users online enjoy causing trouble and some are just plain horrible. Responding is a natural reaction to this behaviour, but consider the following:
- it gives them what they want - knowing their actions have caused upset
- you could be reported for posting abusive comments or saying horrible things back
- most apps and games won't always care who started it
Therefore, it's good to encourage our children to be the better person.
Save a copy to evidence any abusive behaviour
This is easy to do and will work on any app. By selecting a couple of buttons on your device you can save a copy of comments, posts or messages. If you're not sure how to do this search on Google for your device.
Your child can then share this with someone they trust, for example a teacher. In extreme cases it can be shared with the Police. Just because it happens online doesn't mean that the law will treat it differently.
A huge amount of abuse can occur over headsets whilst gaming. Unplugging the headset from the controller or console will allow the chat to come through the television instead. You or your child can then film it with a mobile device. Some parents and carers may be surprised by the way their children treat other gamers online, especially their friends.
All apps and games will give you the ability to report any user who breaks the rules, or whose behaviour is unacceptable:
- the app will then take action
- reporting is anonymous
- reports are viewed by a moderator (a real life person). They decide whether the rules have been broken and what action to take.
Most apps won't tell you what they have done which can be frustrating. They can take actions ranging from:
- sending a message to remind the user of the standards
- removing certain features such as chatting or comment
- ban the user for a certain time
- delete their account
Reporting someone can help keep the internet safer for others too.
This is one of the best ways to keep your child safe from abusive individuals. Blocking will stop the user from:
- accessing their profile
Most apps will let you unblock that user, sometimes after a certain amount of time. Even if it is their 'friend' they are blocking it doesn't mean they won't be able to play with them again. This has been shown to work in a number of friendship groups as the other user is given time to reflect on their behaviour.
Although it can be an effective way to stop abuse the majority of times, blocking isn't perfect. In some apps, such as WhatsApp, they will still be able to be part of group chats.
In some cases, children may be reluctant to block users as they want to be able to see the posts or comments about them. However, this just makes the impact of the behaviour more harmful.
Children may find it difficult to tell a trusted adult that someone is being abusive towards them online. Many children fear what might happen if they tell an adult about something that isn't their fault. For example the loss of a device or use of an app. An analogy could be when a child falls off a bike and hurts themselves, we don't stop them riding the bike.
Many parents and carers may feel that the only way to safeguard their child is to stop them going online. This is understandable, but means that childen may not always report abuse to them. Instead they will put up with it which could have a much greater impact on their wellbeing.
Teaching your child how to manage these events will help keep them safe, whilst allowing them to enjoy the benefits a digital world can bring.
There are many places our children can go to talk. If they worry about telling a parent or carer there are others to talk to:
- a member of staff in school
- a professional working with them
- another family member such as an auntie, uncle, or grandparent
- Childline - by ringing 0800 1111 or visiting Childline.org.uk they can talk to a trained person. Their job is to make them feel safer and happier and remind them that they are not to blame for these things.
Keep the conversation about the good and the bad of technology going!
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