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Helping kids to speak up

The thought of your child being cyberbullied or harassed can be frightening, and not knowing what is the appropriate response can be confusing and difficult. No two cases of cyberbullying and online harassment are ever alike, since they take many forms, from malicious messages, distribution of personal information, posting of embarrassing photos, to trolling and rejection from an online group or conversation.

Cyberbullying and harassment are topics that parents should talk about with their children before incidents occur. A consistent parenting style that balances boundaries, nurturing open and honest conversations, will allow you to resolve these problems together, while also giving you room to intervene when you notice the signs. It would be good if you could have these conversations, when your child is moving from primary to secondary school, or when they start using a smartphone for the first time.

All parents will agree that limiting their screen time is probably one of the biggest challenges they face today. There are ways to monitor their online activities, however the key is to have a strong, trusting relationship with your child. Being open and supportive can make all the difference to a child’s learning and development. It is therefore important to show that you care, you are interested in their lives, and you will always be by their side, no matter what.

Only when they know that you care about what they have to say, and you communicate with them in a non-judgemental and positive way, will they begin to develop trust and interpersonal skills, and learn to turn to you for help and advice. Don’t forget that trust becomes more of a two-way street as your child gets older, so always try to be available when your child needs support, care, or help.

If they do come to you with questions or concerns, make the time to talk, try not to say ‘no’ to everything that might infringe on your pre-set boundaries, and more importantly, let them know that they won’t get into trouble. It will provide the opportunity to manage their emotions, speak without fear, as well as be heard and understood.

Like adults, children get sad, stressed and depressed, so it’s up to us - the parents - to give them the courage to speak up and not be afraid. The confidence to speak up helps children to express their feelings and emotions, which in turn, helps them to manage them cope with a difficult situation in a healthy way, and seek help when they need it.

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