CYBER BULLYING AND THE RISKS TO LOOKED AFTER CHILDREN
Since the beginning of time, bullies have sought to belittle, threaten and coerce their peers. Even now as adults, some people have unsettling memories of being bullied at school or in the playground. Unfortunately, because technology allows unlimited access to both the potentially bullied children and the bully’s, the consequences of bullying are far more serious for children today than in the past. Statistics show that incidences of social isolation, stress related illness, emotional and behavioural problems, loneliness, depression, anxiety, low self esteem and suicide have all risen as a direct consequence of cyber bullying, especially for children who come from an abusive or unstable background.
Cyber bullying occurs when a child or young person is bullied, threatened or otherwise targeted by another child or young person using technology such as a phone, using texts, instant messaging, social networking, online sites, games, websites and blogs. According to a 2010 study, more than 305 of online teens have experienced harassment from a peer and I-Safe states that less than 58% of those being cyber bullied told an adult it was happening. The research team at the Cyber bullying research Centre reported that there is young person who are the victims of cyber bullying also experience the stress and strain that is related to other offline issues, such as running away from home, exclusions from school, drugs and alcohol issues. There has also been links made between suicide and cyber bullying victimisation.
There are many strategies than can be used when working with and caring for children, which can help and possibly prevent children and young people being bullied online. Foster carers training, should include Cyber bullying and internet safety training, if not as a core training course, but an ongoing developing specialist training course. Below are some pointers that foster carers need to consider when caring for looked atfter children:
- Communication-Making sure the channels of communication open at all times if possible, discussing cyber bullying and as a real issue, making it understood they can come and talk if they have any fears or issues in this regard.
- Education- Educate children and young people with regards to the safeguards and risks associated to cyber bullying, should it happen to them. Advise they must tell you or another adult if this starts to happen to them and you won’t be cross with them, but can help!
- Rules- Rules have to be in place with regards to internet usage, whether it’s on mobiles, iPods or any other devices. Filters and adult supervision need to be in place to monitor internet usage.
- Danger signs- Be aware of the danger signs that a child is being bullied. Looked after children are prime candidates to be cyber bullied. Be vigilant to children and young people withdrawing, isolating themselves, becoming depressed suddenly, changes in mood after spending time online, including mood swings.
- Keep up to do date with all things internet safety with CEOP and for specific information on cyber bullying go the Anti Bullying Alliance
Foster carers, teachers, social workers, support workers and all of those professionals who have contact with children and young people within their work, should have training with regards to cyber bullying and internet safety. Simply Fostering Consultancy provides a one day training session which focuses on internet safety and the importance of this for all professionals