Dr Liam Hackett, CEO of the anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label, shares his advice. By Lisa Salmon.
I think my 12-year-old daughter is being bullied online. She hasn’t said anything but I’ve seen her in tears looking at her phone, and one of her friends hinted that she might be being cyberbullied. What should I do?
Dr Liam Hackett, anti-bullying activist and CEO of Ditch the Label (ditchthelabel.org), says: “One of the biggest reasons young people don’t talk about any negative issues or cyberbullying they’re experiencing online is because they’re embarrassed or scared of getting told off by their parents. Therefore, first and foremost, try and reassure her that you love her unconditionally and that she can talk to you about absolutely anything that may be bothering her.
“Another way to get her to open up to you could be by spending some quality time together, as mother and daughter, away from technology, whether that be shopping, going to the cinema or just going for a walk, for example. This will hopefully help her to feel relaxed and more likely to talk about her feelings.
“Once you think she feels comfortable, try to talk to her in a natural way about her friends and about her online life. Try proactively asking, in a non-confrontational and non-judgemental way, about what she enjoys about the internet and social media, and if there’s anything in particular she’s concerned about, as this could spark a conversation on any issues she’s having.
“Legally, most social networks require children to be 13 years old before they can sign up, so if she’s already online, it’s normal and reasonable for you to ask to work with her through her privacy settings, and to effectively hand-hold to ensure she’s safe. However, if she’s active on social media and private or secretive about it, building trust and respect is key.
“Finally, make sure she’s aware of support services like Ditch the Label, as here she can get advice and support from our trained mentors. It may also be a good idea to take a look through some of our resources together, such as our research, and ask her what she thinks. Our resources not only work for kids but can also be beneficial for parents, and by asking for her opinion on something social media or cyberbullying-related, she may be more likely to open up to you and tell you about her own experiences.”