The internet, for most New Zealanders, is an intrinsic part of their working lives, education and personal lives. Most people will spend, on average, an hour each day on the internet. For children and youth, technology is an important part of their education and their social lives. So how do we keep our children safe from cyber bullying, when they have access to Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Google and Twitter?
Firstly, as parents, we can be inquisitive about what internet services our children use on a consistent basis. Do you know if your child/children have an Instagram account? If so, how often are they on it, who do they follow, who follows them and what is the content of their account?
Talking to our children about cyber safety is really important. Do they fully understand the implications of “posting” certain images of themselves and others? What sort of control do they have about what is posted about them, their peers or family members? Children need to have an understanding that everything on the internet is not true and can sometimes have a very negative effect for other people. Netsafe New Zealand (netsafe.org.nz) offers great advice and support for parents and children. The top 10 Tips for Parenting is a great place to start if you would like more of an understanding in keeping your children safe online.
Another alarming issue that has come to light is the New Zealand Instagram Fights page for colleges. Please talk to your children about the impacts of violence and how this is not okay. If you have concerns that this is affecting your child, speak with a teacher, a Board of Trustee member or the Ministry of Education. Homebuilders Family Support Services can help you and your child if you feel that you need that extra support.
Sadly, New Zealand has the highest rate of teen suicide in developed countries and this can partly be attributed to social media. We need to be proactive around supporting our children and youth, trusting that as parents and caregivers we will help them better manage any cyber bullying or pressure. After all, cyber bullying is illegal under our justice system.
On another note, the Homebuilders Family Support Team would like to extend a big “thank you” to the local op shops who continually support us, in particular the Mahurangi Community Trading Post and the Warkworth Anglican Parish Matakana Op Shop for their generous ongoing financial support of Homebuilders Family Support work.
Maria Collins, Homebuilders, Help Desk Advocate