Cyberbullying: The Newest Challenge In Digital Parenting

Helicopter parenting, dolphin parenting, lawn mower parenting, lighthouse parenting - the list of parenting terms is growing and endless, with new terms being coined to depict some aspect of parenting every day. Being a parent in the 21st century is anything but simplistic, with present generations faced with the enormous task of navigating their children’s digital footprints, alongside the age-old parent-child dilemmas. This ‘digital parenting’ is an ongoing process, which has to incorporate and find a balance between the growing demands of children vis a vis the online spaces, along with ensuring their well being on various online platforms.

Cyberbullying: The Newest Challenge In Digital Parenting

With newer platforms and methods of online engagement being developed almost every day, it is necessary for parents to be aware of the various risks their children are exposed to online. One phenomenon which not just children, but even adults are often exposed to it “Cyber bullying”. Yes, the age old practice of bullying, has made its way into the world wide web, and is wreaking havoc, due to the relative anonymity that the internet seems to provide. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines cyber bullying as “the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person (often a student) often done anonymously”.

In a study of 1011 parents of children above the age of five, Comparitech found some interesting data on cyber bullying. The most common space for cyber bullying to occur was on social media sites and apps, with 19.2% of students having reported such incidents, followed by 11% percent bullying via text messages. An important finding is that one need not have an account on social media sites to be a victim of bullying; personal information shared on social media by others, had negative consequences on the person involved in real world.

The Comparitech study found that when children reported cyber bullying to their parents, 59.4% parents spoke to their children about safe internet and technology practices, and about 43.4% parents adjusted the controls on their child’s accounts to block the offender. About 33% parents implemented new rules around their child’s technology usage following the incidence of cyber bullying, and 24.5% limited their child’s use of technology overall. This is a positive sign, as it shows that parents do take active measures when children report cyber bullying.

While the study depicts a range of age wise statistics regarding social media usage among children, it indicates that more than the age at which children start using technology, it is the amount of time they spend on these apps that determine cyberbullying. Simply put, the more time a child spends on social media, their chances of being bullied increases. In this, the role of parent supervision is imperative to ensure how children’s online experiences are shaped up. The study found that for children aged between 6-10 years, 96% of parents had access to their children’s devices. For children aged 14-18 years, this number dropped to 82%. This is relevant, as it shows that parents are playing an active role in monitoring their child’s usage of internet.

The concept of cyber bullying and safe internet practices among children gains new relevance in this time of our lives, with the pandemic looming over us, and online learning being the only method of formal learning. As children are spending increasing amounts of times indoors, and more time in front of various screens, it is necessary for parents to walk hand in hand with their child to navigate the online spaces in a safe, yet enriching manner.