‘Across all risks and with all children talking to someone was the most popular coping strategy’ EU Kids Online (2012) on CyberBullying and negative online experiences. Research has found that building resilience in children and young people is vital in the battle against cyberbullying. Children need to be taught coping strategies early in a world immersed in digital. Parents online confidence was also found to be a factor in reducing cyberbullying as the lines of communication were more open and understood when discussing online topics. As our children become more exposed to technology as a growing part of their daily lives, they are somewhat comfortably numb in this environment and the way in which they are exposed to imagery and behaviour they may not experience so early in the offline world. It is important as Parents and caregivers of young people that we help build their resilience in the online environment. It’s common knowledge that while exploring the Internet is wonderful and exciting, there is a dark side with issues surrounding CyberBullying, Trolling, Sexting and other harmful behaviour which takes place online. Building resilience in children and young people strengthens their ability to cope, adjust or recover from negative online experiences including bullying. It can also help them deal more positively and confidently with peer pressure and negative online experiences. Being resilient gives the young person the ability to bounce back from negative postings or comments, is less likely to display bystanding behaviour and may help the young person become less vulnerable to sexual predators and sexual peer pressure. As Parents, educators and community leaders we want to encourage our children to be confident within, so that if they experience bullying either online or off or have negative experiences they can keep safe, the experience will have less impact on them and they are able to cope, recover and deal with the problem without lasting or devastating consequences, such as cyber related psychological problems, suicide and self harm. So just how can we make our children more resilient when it comes to using technology or things they may come across or see online – here is few areas we can start with:
- Being Empathetic to the world our young people live in - This is an important area when it comes to the gap between us as Parents and other care-giving adults when dealing with our children’s use and grasp of technology, especially that of Social Media and networking. If as a Parent you find yourself involved in a issue with your child and something which has taken place or happened online it is especially important that you put yourself in the shoes of that child and attempt to see the online world as they do. Empathy does not imply that you agree with the situation but rather you attempt to appreciate the young persons point of view.
- Communicating effectively and listening actively - It’s nothing new that many young people see communication with parents and adults in general as a one-way system. I myself am guilty as charged when it comes to how I sometimes communicate to my two young sons. It can and often does tend to be one way. In order to get a better handle and truly understand the online world of a young person we want to encourage them to share and speak of their experiences using technology and the Internet. As adults it is important for us to actively listen to understand what it is they are trying to say and respond in a way which will help empower them.
- Develop responsibility in online behaviour - I was always brought up to help around the house and as Parents we try to reinforce responsibility in Children simply by giving them jobs to do around the house. Children from a very early age like to help others. Encourage this helping approach and kindness in relation to Internet use, especially from an early age where children can make a positive difference within their online world & communities - if they see something taking place they are confident to act, seek support for themselves and peers and avoid bystanding behaviour.
- Actively encourage children and young peoples time away from technology. Breathe in some fresh air.
As technology and the Internet becomes more connected within our everyday lives and how children and young people learn and communicate with each other there are a number of areas which can be improved both at home and within schools in making children more resilient. These are not just limited to young people but also focus on the responsibility of adults. Within schools and the home it is important that we encourage open communication. It is also important that we continue to promote Internet access, use and awareness among adults so that parents and other adults can themselves narrow the gap and feel confident in guiding their children towards responsible use of the Internet . Finally it is paramount that we strive to promote a confident and positive attitude towards being safer online and proactive coping strategies among children’s peer groups. Parents who are confident online users communicating openly with their children who are supported and resilient to pressures and threats in the online as well as the offline world.