By Steph McNicol

A cyber safety expert has warned families of the online dangers to children who have little understanding of the harm the digital world can cause.

As part of National Children Protection Week last week, Cyber Safety Solutions’ Susan McLean shared advice for parents looking to ensure their child’s safety from online bullies and predators.

Susan McLean advises parents to ensure no devices are allowed in bedrooms.

Ms McLean said it was important for parents to remember to be as active in their child’s online life as they would be in their real life.

“Sometimes you just have to be the parent and not the best friend. Say no. No is a good word. As a parent you are responsible for keeping them safe,” Ms McLean said. 

“Be an active and involved participant in what your children are doing online.” 

To reduce the risk of being targeted by online predators, Ms McLean said it was vital devices were not permitted in bedrooms or bathrooms. 

“If a teenager doesn’t have the opportunity to take and send a nude picture of themself, they won’t do it. If the predator can’t convince them to send a nude picture in a shared place in the home, it won’t happen,” she said.

“I don’t agree with monitoring devices, but parents should have the passwords to their child’s devices, not to snoop, but in case they need it or if they suspect something is going on.” 

When children admit they’ve been targeted by other children from school online, Ms McLean said parents should refrain from contacting the bully or their parents.

“Remain calm and ask them to show you the evidence,” she said. 

“Gather everything and head to the school because they are responsible for dealing with it. They have a legal obligation under the law to provide a safe learning environment for every student

“If the school fails to deal with it, because some kids won’t pull their head in, the police can deal with it.

“Cyberbullying is a criminal offence and they can track down who is responsible for the bullying.

“People think ‘I’ll create a fake account, they won’t know it’s me’ but they will.”

For parents of the online bully, Ms McLean said it was important to talk to them about why they targeted someone else. 

“Parents need to support their child through the mistake but do not bail them out – they need consequences,” she said.

“Talk to them about how or why it happened and ask them ‘how can we resolve it?

“If your child doesn’t understand, you need to get them to external help, like a counsellor.”

For more information on cyber safety and keeping children safe online, visit www.cybersafetysolutions.com.au.

Ms McLean shared tips for online safety for parents to ensure their children were safe.

Online safety tips

How do I know if my child is being bullied?
• Change in mood, demeanour and behavior
• Change in friendship groups
• Spending more time with family instead of friends
• Lowering achievements in school
• Not wanting to go out
• Being secretive with online activities
What should I do if my child is being cyberbullied?
• Praise them for coming to you
• Do not be angry with them
• Do not respond to the bullying
• Inform your child’s school
• Save and store evidence
• Help your child block the bully
• Use the ‘report abuse’ function
• Have some time away from technology
• Get new online account or phone numbers
What if my child is the bully?
• Discuss that bullying is unacceptable
• Do not bail them out – ensure consequences
• Discuss solutions to the issue
• Offer an apology to the victim
• Talk to them about their actions
• Set clear rules for online activity
• Enlist the help of professionals like a counsellor