“Cyber bullying, harassment and online safety is the number one issue compromising the safety of kids in schools at the moment," said Senior Constable Susan McLean, Cyber Safety Advisor.
With the proliferation of websites, apps, online games and social media, today’s children are exposed to a vast array of content and images as well as being able to communicate and share with people across the globe. The content they are exposed to, information they share, and people they connect with, may not always be appropriate.
In recent times, there has been an explosion in the reporting of inappropriate content and imagery, harassment, cyber bullying and abuse. With this in mind, we have compiled some advice on cybersafety and raising boys to be smart and safe online.
1. Protect his digital footprint
Ensure your son uses strong passwords and doesn’t share them to protect his online information. Remind your son that once he posts something online, he loses control of it – it stays online forever and has the potential to be seen by thousands of unintended people. As a rule of thumb, ask him to consider if he would share the image or post with his family, teachers and employers, and if the answer is “no” then it shouldn’t be posted or sent. Remind your son that everything he texts or puts online can impact his life and that of his family and friends for years to come.
2. Monitor online use
Don’t allow boys to access the internet in their bedrooms – instead, encourage use in communal areas of the home where you can keep an eye on the sites that he is accessing. Don’t be afraid to ask what he’s looking at, or who he is communicating with. If possible, try to keep an eye on his social media accounts and mobile phone.
3. Share the dangers of online ‘friendships’
All of your son’s social media profiles should be set as private. People he accepts as ‘friends’ on social networking sites, should be known to him in the real world. ‘Grooming’, the process where adults pretend to be someone else in order to gain a young person’s trust with the intent of doing them harm, is unfortunately on the rise. Discourage your son from making friends with online gamers or other people they’ve met online by outlining the risks of befriending people that may not be who they say they are.
4. Set clear rules and expectations
Ensure you set family rules and expectations about what can and cannot be shared online and by mobile texting. Your son should be mindful of others’ reputation, and seek their permission before tagging, or sharing images and content about them. Explain the importance of protecting personal information, by highlighting what can go wrong.
5. Mobile phones are not secure
Raise the topic of sexting and its implications - even if your son takes illicit photos on his phone and doesn’t share them with anyone, they have the potential to be made public by hackers. He should be aware that sharing illicit photos online or via mobile is a criminal offence under State and Commonwealth laws. Have him ask himself ‘would I want to see this image of my sister or brother?’ – by reframing it in this way, he is more likely to consider the consequences. Advise your son that the best approach is to avoid taking any illicit digital photos or video all together.
6. Seeking help and advice
Research shows that young people are unlikely to report cyber bullying. Ensure give your son advice on how to deal with inappropriate online behaviour. Remind your son on a regular basis that if he witnesses or experiences inappropriate online behaviour, he should come to you – make this easier for him by listening and consulting with him on what to do, rather than flying off the handle or making harsh judgements. Encourage him to seek out a teacher or another adult if he’d rather not discuss it with you, and don’t take it personally if he chooses to do so. Cyberbullies thrive on interaction. Explain to your son that although he may feel angry and want to respond, the most effective way to impact bullies is to not respond to them, block the sender and report the behaviour.
7. Reinforce good morals
Remind your son about the importance of being kind to others and showing them respect. Remind him that if he wouldn’t say something to someone in person then he shouldn’t be saying it online. Luke 6:31 ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’ is a powerful verse. Offer him advice about dealing with inappropriate or disrespectful behaviour from others. Boys can be easily influenced by peers to do things they know are not right. Give your son the confidence to stand up to peer pressure, whether it be to simply walk away or make a stand and call out inappropriate behaviour.
Trinity Grammar School is one of the best boys schools in Sydney and for over a century we have prided ourselves on being at the forefront of the latest teaching and pastoral care approaches. Senior Constable Susan McLean has addressed our School community about cybersafety and we are proud to be an eSmart school – an initiative of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, that uses a cultural change approach to improve cybersafety and reduce cyberbullying. To learn more about the Trinity difference, download our Prospectus.