Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. After speaking to a number of primary school groups about digital safety recently, I have had sleepless nights as these insights, from smart, nice kids paint a very worrying picture of the extent of Cyberbullying that these grades 4 – 7 boys and girls are experiencing.

Insights of Primary School Children about Cyberbullying

What do they say about Nudes or Naked Selfies?

  • When it comes to sharing nudes or naked selfies, they said that surely it’s okay if you are in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship or you are married. Their brains cannot comprehend yet that when relationships sour, revenge porn is one of the biggest issues social media lawyers are dealing with today amongst teens and adults.Once you have shared a nude there is no telling when it might be used against you. Just don’t. Ever! It’s not if you will be asked for one but when.
  • A number of 12 and 13-year old girls reported having shut down their Instagram accounts a number of times because of male stalkers. When they opened up new profiles the same people started hounding them for nudes. These girls have up to 5 000 followers on Instagram at this tender age. They don’t want to give up social media because, despite the fact that they are highly anxious and fearful of the stalkers, they like the attention.
  • A number of girls told me that photos of their faces have been photoshopped onto naked bodies and circulated.

Why do they create Alter-Egos?

  • One lovely young girl said she studies the people who follow her and what they like and then she consciously becomes what they are looking for. She has so many different personalities online that she said she no longer knows who she is and that is now really troubling her. However, she likes the attention so doesn’t really want to stop playing the game. She did say, she knows she needs help.

Reasons for Compulsive Gaming

  • Many boys and girls report needing to be on social media and losing themselves in gaming to ‘escape reality’ because real life itself is not happy or fun with the following reasons being cited: absent parents, divorce, blended families where they get no attention, sibling fairness issues in the home where the favourite child is heard but they are ignored, infidelity of one parent or another, no-one paying them attention at home, among others. Of course this is their perspective and yours may be quite different.

What they don’t know?

  • The single most important thing they learnt that they didn’t know before my presentation is that the internet remembers everything, even what they delete. This is the same key learning for every learner audience I have ever had over the years. Every action they take online can be tracked back for years by people smarter than you and I who search online reputations for a living. This freaked many of them out because of what they have already been doing online that could compromise their reputation in the future.

Do their parents know?

None of these children have spoken to their parents about what is going on and they go to bed at night (most of them with their cellphones) trying to fall asleep through their fear and anguish. They are under attack and many of them are probably perpetrators of cyberbullying in some way, shape or form too.

These are nice kids. I loved my time with them. But even nice kids can be nasty or misbehave online, or fall prey to other kids or adults online, mostly because of ignorance and because the attention game is the biggest game in town. Why don’t they tell their parents what is going on or ask for help? Because having their phone taken away would be social suicide.

Parents, you need to wake up long before you give your child a cellphone. These kids are too immature to deal with blackmail, extortion, revenge porn, stalking, being hounded down for nudes, cyberbullying, being socially excluded and so much more. Kids can’t deal with these issues in the real world, let alone the online world. It is not the school’s sole responsibility to deal with this although many are making a valiant effort. You gave them the smartphone in the first place, didn’t you?

Valuable Resources

Please, please listen to this podcast, I had with Josh Ramsey from Be In Touch, an organisation that specialises in family digital wellness. He is a speaker, educator and coach who watches trends in the digital space and translates them into everyday speak. Josh also speaks from personal experience having suffered from digital addiction in his teens and 20s.

Download a copy of my cellphone contract here that will give you a framework for a very real conversation with your child and provide the basis for an agreement of use.

How can I help you?

In the digital safety space, I present to learners and parents. You can book me for your school or your business here.

If you want a recommendation for parental control software you can get more information about Bark here. Parental control software doesn’t replace the relationship and conversations you need to have with your child before they get into trouble, or after the fact – it can only help to track, diagnose and prescribe next steps.

Read my book Tech-Savvy Parenting (Bookstorm, 2014) that is as relevant today as it was then, containing classical parenting advice for a digital world no matter what platforms your children are engaging with.

Let’s help our children make better choices online earlier. What will you chid’s future-self thank you for?

Much love,
Nikki Bush
Human Potential and Parenting Expert helping you to win at work and life

Enjoy the podcast of the Refiloe Mpakanyane’s Breakfast Show, where we discussed this very concerning the topic of Cyberbullying that is rife in our primary schools.