I’ve already noticed my three teens, aged 14, 15 and 17, are online a lot more over the school holidays. I’m concerned that their interactions with people over Instagram and other social media apps might lead to problems. What can I do to protect them from cyber bullying over the break?
School holidays should be a welcome break for families: a chance to relax and get away from anything that’s been stressing or upsetting you during term time.
However, holidays can also be a risky time for cyber bullying. During the holidays, many kids are less supervised and more reliant on technology for social contact – and they don’t have to turn up at school the next day and face the consequences of what they’ve done.
The good news is there are things parents can do to prevent and reduce these problems.
1. Enjoy tech gifts safely
During the festive season, kids receive a huge number of ‘smart’ gifts, including phones, tablets, toys and wearables. Check out this recent Parent Hub article on setting rules when your children get new devices.
Take the time to talk with kids about how to use their new devices in ways that are safe, responsible and respectful of other people – and what to do if something goes wrong. You can use the Dolly’s Dream Parent Hub to get started talking to kids about things like cyber bullying, social media and communicating with strangers online.
You might also sit down and take the Dolly’s Dream DigiPledge together – the DigiPledge is designed for families to explore topics such as navigating social media and gaming.
Serious cyber bullying, illegal content and abusive image-sharing can be reported to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.
2. Make the party season a good time
Older kids have been studying hard for months, and are ready to enjoy themselves! So, it’s important to have sensible, honest chats with your teens about partying safely. This includes topics like drinking and drugs, planning transport, looking after your friends, and what to do in an emergency – see these guides by Kids Helpline and the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.
We also suggest brainstorming with your kids about situations like these:
- “How do we use social media at parties?” This includes thinking twice, getting consent before posting pics of other people, and showing respect and kindness.
- “What if you end up at a party with people you didn’t want to see?” Do your kids have friends they can stick with, other places they can go, or a plan for how to respond if someone tries to start some drama?
3. Make friends and build strengths
The holidays are a perfect time for kids to make new friends and build skills and confidence. You might check out:
- School holiday programs at your local council, library, or sports and rec centre
- Youth mentoring programs – try this directory
- Scouts, Guides, sporting teams, or programs for arts, theatre, circus skills, or outdoor adventures
For shy or anxious kids, it can be helpful to plan ahead of time for things like: how to greet new people, easy conversation starters, finding things in common, showing care for others and speaking to a trusted adult if something’s wrong.
4. Stressed? Reach out for support
During the holidays, kids are away from the teachers and wellbeing staff who supported them at school with problems such as bullying. It’s important kids know to speak to a trusted adult if something’s bothering them during the holidays, and understand that they can access free, confidential counselling over web or phone, for any reason, any time – and they don’t need anyone’s permission. These services include: