Is Your Child Protected From Schoolyard Cyberbullying?

 Mrs Judi Nealy - Principal, The Illawarra Grammar School Thu 6 December 18


2018 is the age of technology and connectivity! Our children are exposed to more technology and information than any generation in history. In today’s world, the average age a child starts being exposed to and allowed to use technology daily is three years old.

From this early age, most children are engaging with education apps and games to enhance their cognitive development and fine motor skills. However, the use of technology, specifically smartphones and tablets can be a double-edged sword.

While children can gain a sense of connectivity and become extremely tech-savvy at an early age these devices act as a gateway that can expose them to cyberbullying, antisocial behaviour and inappropriate content. The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne recently reported that 1 in 10 children have experienced cyberbullying while at school. This means that in Australia there are over 570,000 children being exposed to cyberbullying between the ages of 3 and 18 during their schooling life.

With such a staggering number of children affected by anti-social behaviour, it begs the question… How do parents protect their child from cyberbullying at school?

Earlier this year, the NSW Government’s Minister for Education, Mr Rob Stokes ordered an Australian-first state-wide review of smartphone use in schools and their link to cyberbullying. Mr Stokes explains that “while smartphones connect us to the world in ways never imagined just a decade ago, they raise issues that previous generations have not had to deal with”. These issues include online teasing, hurtful messages, unpleasant comments and videos and in some cases the misuse of identity. The review will be led by leading child psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Greigg and will look at the possibility of banning all smartphones from schools and only allow “dumbphones” (like your old Nokia 3310). The review has the potential to make a wide-spread change in Australian. This review will provide concrete evidence and research for Schools as they determine their individual stance towards smartphones use during the school day.

As parents and adults, we often come to rely on our smartphones as our primary source of day to day information and connection. If the reliance on a smartphone can become an issue for an adult with fully formed thoughts and values, we need to consider the influence of this pervasive technology on our children? Schools such as The Illawarra Grammar School (TIGS) believes that the issue of technology in schools is broader than banning smartphone use. Banning a vital piece of technology may not be necessary if more situation specific policies can be put in place.

For example, TIGS has proactively updated their Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) policy regarding smartphones and computer use. This review saw TIGS become a mobile phone free zone during the school day. This encourages a positive social environment and agile learning space where students focus on face to face, real-time interactions with each other rather than being distracted by their phones. For safety reasons, students can still access and use their phones when arriving and leaving school as a way to contact their parents. Technology is used at school for the purpose of learning is regulated by teachers and the school security network to protect students from harmful material. This approach is underpinned by the belief that the purpose of technology during the school day is to enhance student learning.

Parents and caregivers play an important role in this area also. There are many protective routines that parents can implement in the home that provide safeguards for their children and their technology use. Some examples include: regular conversations with your children about their use of technology, a rule that they not “friend” or talk to anyone online that they don’t know in the real world without your permission, keep phones and tablets out of bedrooms, parents to know all passwords and routinely check what is being looked at and engaged online. Most importantly if your child shows any symptoms that something is wrong and bullying may be the cause either online or face to face, talk about what is happening, support your child and contact the school.

If you are unaware of your child’s school ICT or Anti-Bullying Policy, contact your school and discuss with them how they manage technology and its use in the classroom. Do they use it for education? Are there filters in place to prevent students from viewing inappropriate content? How do they manage incidents of cyberbullying? Make sure your school has active policies in place to address cyberbullying as every child deserves a safe learning environment at school.



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