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Counsellor’s Couch: Cyberbullying

Dear Parents

Congratulations! You have survived Term 2. This term has been busy and the girls have had to adjust to new school routines and rules. It has not been easy, as adjustment takes time and can be difficult.

June’s Counsellor’s Couch topic is something very close to my heart – Cyberbullying. I can still so clearly remember the day that I was cyberbullied back in 2011. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 19 at the time and I can still envision the messages in my mind. I remember where I was and I even remember how it made me feel, and how it still makes me feel. Teenagers are in a constant process of trying to find out who they are and add cyberbullying into the equation; it has the potential for very negative psychological and emotional consequences.

When I look back on my cyberbullying experience, although it had a negative impact on me, it resulted in my passions for Psychology, as well as studying bullying and cyberbullying. In 2018, my Psychology Masters Dissertation focused on exploring the experiences and perceptions of cyberbullying amongst senior school students from an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis perspective. One of my findings was the role that parents’ monitoring played in cyberbullying. Below is a paragraph from my Dissertation that discusses this finding (Schofield, 2019) (Pseudonym names are used*):

Children and adolescents are aware that there is a generation gap in technology knowledge between themselves and their parents (Belsey, 2004). This emerged in the research as it was clear that the participants felt that parents lacked understanding and were too trustworthy of their children. Bhengu illustrated this by indicating, “I don’t think parents understand” and “because like they are ignorant to the um…the age gap!” This finding mirrors a Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety survey, which revealed that adolescents perceived parents as not having a general awareness of what happens on the internet (JSCCS, 2011). A second reason why parents may not monitor their children’s phone was due to the perceived high amount of trust they had for their children. Ayavuya for example mentioned, “I think it is because their parents trust them too much”. The available cyberbullying literature however rarely mentions that parents’ trust plays a role. Thus, this finding is significant and further research is needed. A concern raised in cyberbullying literature is that there is a lack of parent monitoring. This lack of monitoring is contributing to cyberbullying victimisation and the results from this study concur with the literature (Hurtzell & Payne, 2012). Due to the fact that cyberbullying takes place in the home environment, it is difficult for school policies to control this type of bullying. This is why parent supervision plays a critical role in intervening and preventing cyberbullying as it is a protective factor (Mesch, 2009). Although there is limited research on the positive effects of cyberbullying and parent monitoring, the few that are available have shown promising results. These studies have shown that parents who monitored their children’s online activity, minimised the chances of their children falling victim to cyberbullying or participating in bullying behaviour (Rosen et al., 2008; Spears et al., 2005).

As parents, what can you do?

It is important that you try maintain open and honest communication with your daughters and listen actively. You can discuss and teach them about internet safety and cyberbullying. Continue to support and build your daughters self-esteem and establish enforceable rules. It is difficult to monitor their online activity, and often if you do, your daughter may find this an invasion of her privacy. It is therefore important to try find a balance and lastly make sure you maintain an open and honest communication ‘policy’.

I am hoping to have a parent workshop next term on cyberbullying and to also inform you of the new technology/social media sites. If you would be interested in attending, please can you let me know by emailing me on soconnell@stjohnsdsg.com with the subject line: INTERESTED IN CYBERBULLYING WORKSHOP. This will help me get an idea on numbers.

Have a lovely and restful holiday with your family.

Regards,

Sarah O’Connell

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