Cyberbullying: A Nigerian parent perspective

Online security and safety has become a top concern for every individual with unbridled access to social media and the Internet. Even children are at the risk of cyberbullying. 

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is the intentional or repeated abuse, harassment and maltreatment of someone through electronic and online channels – be it digital gadgets, the internet or social media. Also known as cyber-harassment, it is becoming increasingly targeted at young adults and children. 

It includes many various forms of malicious behaviour such as negative comments, threats of divulging personal information, trolling and stalking.

The role of social media

It is no surprise that the age of social media has taken over the lives of everyone. Young adults and children spend a larger chunk of their free time on platforms, such as TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram. 

Expectedly, there has been an unprecedented surge in cyberbullying targeting this region of young people and children who have a propensity to reveal personal and sensitive information to online pals, friends and strangers without caution. These information include age and birthdays, financial details of their parents, address/locations, contact details, daily routines and itineraries.

How can parents protect their children?

This goes hand-in-hand with supervising the time they spend online and which sites
and content they love to visit and consume more.

Since cyberbullying mostly occurs in the online space, parents and teachers may have some difficulty being in the know and remedying the situation, however, there are pre-emptive countermeasures that protect children and young adults from the risks of exposure to cyber-harassments.

Let your kids know the sensitivity of private information which once published may never be retracted or erased. Also, put them through on how to activate privacy and security settings on their computers, phones, browsers and their social media accounts. 

This goes hand-in-hand with supervising the time they spend online and which sites and content they love to visit and consume more. That puts parents on top of their children’s activities on the internet and allows for proactive protection from all forms of threats. 

Encourage the children to talk about issues they may encounter in their online spaces, because children being targeted feel powerless, humiliated and there may be visible decline in their academic performances. The embarrassment often times makes them not want to talk about it. An atmosphere of trust and confidence is vital to get children to open up.

It is also very important to educate them about empathy and why they should never cyberbully anyone else and jump on the bandwagon of spreading mischievous news and negative information that is targeted at people they know, or even complete strangers on the internet. Let them also understand it is unacceptable to invade people’s privacy, go through other people’s phones and sneak into other people’s online space.

Another proactive measure is to be aware of subtle or sudden changes and mood swings in the behaviour of your children. It could be a sign they are feeling threatened.  Consult their teachers, counsellors and other experts on the subject.

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