Are Parents Responsible For Their Child's Bullying?
Cyberbullying peaks when students are on summer break, but parents are leaving teachers to deal with the fallout when the school year resumes, educators and experts say.
Melbourne teacher Joel Hamilton* has had enough of your children.
Specifically, he's had enough of you.
"Teachers are fighting a losing battle against parents," the primary school educator told 10 daily.
Hamilton said cyberbullying climaxes during the summer holidays, and parents are leaving teachers to handle it when the school year picks back up.
"Parents don't want to be seen as disciplinarians, they don't want to say 'no' to their kids. They'll tell us their child was bullied online by another student over the holidays and ask us to handle it," he said.
Australia's eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, confirmed school holidays are a "particularly challenging time" for students.
"The long break can leave some young people more vulnerable to social exclusion -- a more covert form of cyberbullying -- especially if they depend on their online community for a sense of self-worth," Grant told 10 daily.
"Parents also need to ensure they are modelling the same behaviours in their own technology use, and take time away from their screens."
Parents play a "major role" in their child's online behaviour, Australia's foremost expert in cyber safety, Susan McLean, told 10 daily.
"As much as some people focus on keeping kids safe online, parents have a role to play to ensure their child is not cyberbullying others," she stated.
Almost 50 percent of children aged 8-12 years old across 29 countries had experienced cyberbullying in the past year, the 2018 DQ Impact Report found.
Research indicated one in five young Australians between eight and 17 have been subjected to cyberbullying -- a consistent figure for the past decade.
A concern is parents allowing young children to use networks such as Instagram and Snapchat, despite the platforms having a legal minimum age of 13.
"Kids shouldn't be on social media till they're 13, but parents permit them even though they're nowhere near mature enough to understand it," Hamilton said.
"Some have argued they supervise usage -- but a lot have realised their kids are making public profiles without their knowledge and lying about their age."
Educating children on inappropriate and safe social media use "takes time and oversight," offered technology entrepreneur, Mark Fortunatow.
Fortunatow has created SPACETALK, a smartphone-watch that only allows children to send SMS and make calls to a parent-controlled list of contacts.
"Not allowing access to social media under 13 is a sensible strategy because there are many traps for young users. These include releasing personal details (often via competitions and the lure of prizes), inappropriate contact and inability to predict consequences of posting personal information and photos.
"The evidence is younger children may not recognise a risky situation when they encounter it, and not take evasive action," he told 10 daily.
Hamilton, a Year 5 teacher, has witnessed some of the most intense cyberbullying play out among his students during group projects.
He recalled one example where a trio of boys -- who used the chat function on Google Docs via their Chromebooks -- fought hard over a class assignment.
"One of the boys wasn't pulling his weight, and the other two told him to pick up his game. He called them 'poof' and 'fag', then said to 'suck a d***' and it escalated. It was atrocious language."
When the students' parents were called in, the mother of the "one who started it defended him and said it wasn't his fault."
"Her son had also vandalised an artifact at a Melbourne museum and when confronted, she told us he must have been 'bored' and why did we take the kids on such a boring excursion?" Hamilton added.
Sydney teenager Angie Papadopolous* said she hardly used social media because of the cyberbullying she had experienced throughout high school.
"I was called every name under the sun: annoying, an idiot, a slut, a bitch, I was disgusting, stupid, etc."
The 18-year-old said every time she posted a photo on Instagram or Facebook, a group of girls at her school would tag each other "just to laugh".
"And when I'd go into school the next day, I'd get nasty looks and comments from the same group, who always thought it was funny to put others down."
While she mostly "ignored" the online abuse, Papadopolous said if she needed to talk about it she would go to her mother, boyfriend, and close friends.
"It was the only thing that made me feel better."
Only half of all Australian teens will talk to a trusted adult about a negative online incident and only 12 percent report online abuse to a social media site.
"We would say to any young person being bullied or harassed online, you are not alone and we are here to help," Julie Inman Grant told 10 daily.
The eSafety Commissioner advised young people to "speak to someone you trust, collect evidence, block the person bullying you, and most importantly, report it to the social media site."
If the offensive content or post is not removed within 48 hours, it can be reported to www.esafety.gov.au/reportcyberbullying.
If you need help in a crisis, or just need someone to talk to, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.
*Last names have been changed to protect identity.
Featured image: Getty.
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