Netsafe calls parents to prevent harm of online bullying

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

Bullying-Free New Zealand Week runs from 22 May - 26 May this year, Netsafe wants to remind parents that they have the power to prevent the harm of online bullying.

Netsafe Outreach Director for Sean Lyons says, “Talk to young people about what they're experience is, have they seen it? Have their friends seen it? How would they deal with it? Even if they haven't been the target of it up until that point. It's good to know that young people do know how to deal with it should the need arise. If they don't know how to deal with it, then it's the parents' role to definitely support them.”

Over the last six months, Netsafe has received hundreds of complaints of online bullying, abuse and harassment from people aged 21 and under. They expect complaints of online bullying from young people to increase as the service becomes more widely known.

“One in five, that's an awful lot of kids if you think about a classroom of 30. That's six young people in that classroom. That's an awful lot of individuals that will experience some kind of harmful behaviour by other people during a year.”

He maintains that parents have to be conscious of their own online behaviour and how younger generations might emulate that.

“When we're commenting online and our children can see that. Make sure we're aware of what it is we're saying. Make sure we're thinking about the people on the other end. Make sure that we're not just venting a bit of anger online in front of them and making them think that hey that's OK.”

Lyons believes one of the reasons disputes often escalate online is because each person is physically removed from the situation.

“We have to have to keep in mind that when we are online. We are not talking to a sea of robots. We're often talking to actual people. The comments that we're making are being read by real people. They're referencing real people and we need to think about the impact, and the effect that that can have on real people.”

Netsafe says awareness about the impact of bullying is growing with the likes of this week's Bullying Free New Zealand Week.