Secondary school wasn’t exactly the best time of my life. I had one good friend, but apart from that I wasn’t exactly what you’d call popular. I was kind of chubby and red faced, and if I knew the answer to a question in class then I just couldn’t help but put my hand up.
As a result I experienced my fair share of bullying. Nothing horrific - some name calling, teasing - the kind of thing that you tell your mum about and she tries to convince you it’s just because ‘the other kids are jealous.’ Of what exactly I was never really sure.
I always knew though that however many times I might get called a swot or a square in school, once I got home I was safe. You closed the door behind you and no one could get you.
It’s not like that any more.
I can’t even begin to imagine how stressful it must be now as a child, because there isn’t that safe space any more is there? You can’t just leave everything behind at school and sit quietly in your bedroom, because your bedroom is full of Snapchat and Facebook and WhatsApp and everyone is there, ALL THE TIME.
If you’re being bullied online as a child it must feel like there is no escape.
Okay, you could switch off your phone or disable various apps, but that in turn isolates you from your real friends and from doing other things you enjoy - you shouldn’t have to do that. You should be able to chat to your friends and socialise online without feeling threatened.
It’s something I worry a lot about as a parent. My eldest daughter is 22 now and was very much of the MSN messenger generation. Now with Belle, 15, it’s Snapchat and Instagram. As parents we want to protect our children, but is it realistic to monitor everything they do online? And what about their privacy?
It’s a delicate balance of course, but if I have learnt anything as a parent it’s that you can’t always be in control. All you can do is teach your children how to have trust in themselves, to make good choices, and that they can come to you should anything go wrong.
That’s essentially what The Royal Foundation’s Stop, Speak, Support campaign is all about.
The Royal Foundation, a charity set up by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, has partnered with EE for the campaign to develop a series of commitments to help tackle online bullying.
In essence, as the name suggests, the campaign advocates three principal things that children can do if they come across incidences of cyberbullying, whether they are the victims themselves or a witness. As parents it’s crucial that we talk to our children about these strategies, so that they understand the steps they can take to tackle cyberbullying.
When you’re involved in online conversations or activities, it can be all too easy to get sucked in, and things can escalate quickly. It’s important though that children realise that at any point they are allowed to step back or switch off.
If someone says something that makes them feel uncomfortable, or is aggressive, then they need to stop and take stock, not get drawn in.
The next step is to talk to someone about what’s happening. This could be a teacher, a parent, a sibling or someone else, but children shouldn’t feel afraid to be open about their concerns, however silly they might feel at the time.
As adults we then have a responsibility to take these concerns seriously, and to nurture an environment where our young people feel safe talking to us about their worries.
Finally, once your child has spoken to someone about what’s going on, the final step is to take action and seek support. This might be a parent taking a child into school to talk to a teacher about a specific incident, or perhaps being in touch with a support organisation for advice.
Whatever form it might take, no child should ever be afraid to reach out and ask for help. We need to take a stand against cyberbullying so stories like Lucy's don't become the norm:
Find out more about the Stop, Speak, Support campaignhere.
What do you think? How can we help educate our children to be safe online? How will you ensure that your children understand the Stop, Speak, Support principles? Tap 'Comment' and let us know.