Bullying goes online…


I recently spoke to my 13 year old son about the dangers of the internet.

I’m not sure I did a brilliant job of it. I found myself struggling. Scraping around for good reasons why he should be careful.

The problem was that I felt I needed a really powerful reason to give him. Something that would make him cautious. So, aside from encountering a paedophile unawares, which is rare and unlikely, I struggled to think of much to say.

Then I read the newspaper and the wider reality of online dangers hit home…

Two separate family tragedies highlighted how the internet can turn sour if children are left unguided:

Hannah Smith – a 14 year old school girl, took her own life after suffering “a torrent of abuse” online. Among the things the nameless bullies had said to Hannah were comments telling her, “you must die.

One of the websites on which the bullies harassed Hannah was Ask.fm. The Latvia-based website allows people to post comments anonymously, allowing bullies to remain hidden.

Daniel Perry – aged 17 from Fife in Scotland, took his own life after being blackmailed, also through Ask.fm. Masquerading as teenage girls, the bullies told him that they would post pictures of him on the internet if he didn’t give them money.

The website’s owners have since agreed to co-operate with the investigative authorities, make their problem reporting button more prominent on the site and make bullying and harassment one of the reportable categories.

Like the death of any child, these cases are tragic. But they highlight a number of issues that we parents and carers need to bear in mind if we’re to stop the same thing from happening to our kids.

Something is better than nothing…

Despite feeling that I hadn’t done a great job of informing and instilling a due sense of caution in my son, I was glad I’d done something. These days, technology seems increasingly inaccessible. And the older you get, the harder it seems to be to understand it.

Ask.fm has 50 million registered users worldwide and 30 million questions and answers are posted on it everyday. These are big numbers. But this website is currently only the 79th most popular social media site; there are 78 others which are even more widely used! This is definitely not about Ask.fm.

The old keeping up with the new…

This is about an older generation getting to grips with the technologies of the new. Whilst we may not know exactly what it is that we need to do, one thing is for sure: we must do something. As something is always better than nothing.

In hearing about these desperately sad cases of young lives cut short, I was pleased I had a go at instilling some sense of caution.

I urge you to do the same…

Where to go for help…

Knowing where to start can be a challenge. So I did some rooting around and came across this really useful guide from Vodafone – Digital Parenting – Protecting Our Children.

It’s a good place to start getting to grips with keeping children safe from technologies. It contains all sorts of tips and information, including:

  • When does gossip online…tip over into bullying?
  • How can you keep up and stay in control, whatever your child’s age?
  • Digital grand-parenting – what do grandparents need to know to help young people stay safer online?
  • Sexting: fact or fiction?
  • Online sexual grooming
  • Setting boundaries
  • …and lots more…

The NSPCC have also issued guidance. You can access this here.

The UK Safer Internet Centre also has information, here.

What do you think?

  • Do you have any lessons to add or tips for those starting down the tricky road of online safety?
  • Do you have a burning question you’d like to have answered on this topic?

Please let me know what your thoughts are. Leave a comment below or click here.

Related previous posts…

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© Jonny Matthew 2013


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Rob

    Hi Jonny,
    Every parent should guide and advise their kids about the dangers of the internet, and without being too intrusive, make them aware of the way’s they could be putting themselves in danger. Online bullying has been quite prevalent in recent years, and more has to be done with regards to social media, the people running the sites, and tracing these nasty individuals who take pleasure in bullying online. Unfortunately in the 21st Century, the world wide web has become the prey ground for online bullies, trolls, sexual predators, and paedophiles, and as you say, “Something is better than nothing.” The more aware the general population is the better, with regards to all the dangers that are out there online.

    • jonnymatthew

      Thanks Rob – couldn’t agree more! That was the message I was trying to communicate. Thanks for commenting.

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