5 articles Tag Bullying

Keeping Your Kids Safe Online

I’ve always been a huge fan of kids using technology; I know lots of people think that screen time is negative for kids, and I agree that all things should be in moderation, but I strongly believe that children can learn a lot from various apps and programs and that they should have time on devices without us leaning over their shoulders.

Sausage is at an age now where her interest in the internet has evolved slightly. No longer is she spending ages on the Cbeebies website or using the Mister Maker app to make beautiful, fridge-worthy creations. Now, she’s also asking about websites (like the ones you see advertised on the TV) which allow users to not only play games, but chat with one another too, which really concerns me. I have no objections to her chatting with friends online, but these websites are SO often a completely unknown quantity and can be a portal to online bullying, which is why I was keen to help when a cyber-bullying charity got in touch. Here’s what they had to say:

To mark this year’s Stop Cyberbullying Day on Friday 17 June, anti-bullying charity Bullies Out has partnered with data analytics firm Online Them to raise awareness of the risks of cyberbullying and what parents can do to spot the warning signs in time.

Monitoring software such as Online Them enables parents and teachers to keep an eye on children’s online activities and highlight any causes for concern. Any monitoring of online activity tends to spark handwringing sermons about the right to privacy. But this is not another example of Big Brother clipping the wings of youngsters trying to explore the world and all the opportunities that brings. Nor does it give parents and teachers free reign to spy on children.

Tools using Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing can identify and highlight anything of concern or unusual to an individual child such as social media posts containing adult content, or mentions of crime, as well as flagging any new friends in countries outside the UK and a rank of who a child is interacting with most on social media. This is done on a consent-only basis, meaning a child has to agree to the use of software to monitor their high-level social media use. Consent can be given easily and quickly via an email invitation – all they have to do is click the attached link and authorize access to their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts. They can connect all three accounts or just one or two.

Monitoring tools present a great way to hold a child’s hand as they enter the world of social media. Parents and teachers can both use these tools to safeguard children in a low-maintenance and non-intrusive way.

Sausage uses her own iPad and laptop, both of which are internet enabled and I really don’t like to be hanging over her shoulder the whole time, so using an online monitoring software would really give us peace of mind. She’s not allowed anywhere NEAR Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or any of the other places where random people could gain access to her, and Husband and I will be thinking long and hard about whether she’ll ever be allowed accounts on these sites, while she’s under our rules.

If you want some really handy tips on how to keep your kids safe online, take a look at the Bullies Out site, where there is a whole wealth of information, and also links to allow you to donate to this excellent cause. Online Them are also currently offering a free one month trial for parents, allowing you to try the site before you commit to a subscription.

How do you moderate your kids online usage? Have you got any apps installed? Have you ever had to deal with cyber-bullying? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave me a comment below.

Guest Post: Mummy, Why are They Being so Mean to Me?

On the blog today, we have a guest post from Helen Neale, who writes at both kiddycharts.com, a parenting advice and tools site offering free personalised kids charts, and stickersstarsandsmiles.com, a much more personal blog where she promises to tidy up, but never quite gets around to it. She can be found far too much on social media, particularly Twitter.

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As the teacher passed, she could hear sobbing. She looked across the wooden hall floor, but couldn’t find where it was coming from. She tilted her head to try and concentrate. In the corner of the hall was a gym mat, positioned delicately against the climbing frames that the school children used in PE. She moved silently towards the sound, and as she approached the noise got louder. Leaning in, she peered behind the mat.

Standing pressed against the wall, tears streaming down her face, was a small girl.”

Thirty-five years ago, that was me.

Even after all this time, I can still remember vividly the teacher who found me, and helped me. But even now, I can sometimes still feel like that little girl, hiding from harsh and cutting words.

My time at school has shaped me into the woman I am today, I am sure of it. It has made me into someone who hates confrontation, so much that I will apologise for anything just to move on, and not create tension.

It has made me desperate to be liked. I turned to bribery in secondary school. Eventually, a close friend told me that I didn’t have to use my dinner money to buy her sweets to get her to speak to me. It was only then that I finally came to realise that I didn’t have to pay for friendship. Friendship was something that is freely given, and gratefully received.

Despite finally finding a wonderful friend, I was still singled out by some of the older girls as the weaker one; sensitive to criticism. I often wondered if I “just had the face for it” as I grew up.

I avoided catching the school bus home to my village if I could. When I did brave the ride on the first bus home, I would sit near the front away from the other children. I would then spend 45 minutes listening to the kids behind me, talking about me, calling me names, deliberately waking past, and flicking my hair, throwing my bag down the bus…anything to upset me. Never physical, but the constant niggles were enough to cut deep.

Suddenly though, it stopped.

The main culprit left the school; as simple as that.

The other players didn’t have their heart in it. Having finally told my mum, she helped too; giving me the confidence to stand up to them, to speak to the teachers and not to try and handle everything on my own. After the bully left, my bus trips started again. However, my anxiety and my wish to be liked has remained ever since.

If I had my time again, I do sincerely wish that it hadn’t happened, any of it. Of course I do. Thinking about those times, still stings my eyes.

But, the sensitivity it has instilled in my heart; how we should listen, and love, has made me into someone who has understood many of my friend’s darkest moments. Once, it helped save a life.

The determination to carry on despite being bullied lives on in me now too; that survival instinct has moulded me both personally and professionally.

I made it.

I was able to come out the other side. That has given me a confidence in myself that I didn’t think, as that little six-year old, hiding behind a gym mat, I would ever have. I am still desperate to seek approval from others, but it isn’t as all encompassing as it was when I was a child. It doesn’t choke me, it doesn’t mean I feel that every friend I have is just here for a while until they find someone else more exciting, funnier, or with more money for sweets….

However, I realised this week that I find myself seeking approval from my kids in a way that I wish I didn’t. Anything from the simple questions about whether their birthday party was any good, to whether they liked the dinner I made them. This even extends to the friends they invite to those parties, or sit down to have that dinner with them.

Despite all that I have achieved, there is still a wee six year old in there, desperate to be liked.

How have you overcome this need for approval if you have it too? Is there anyway to do so? Shall I just give up and have a biscuit?

If you or your children are experiencing bullying, please seek help. There are some wonderful organisations out there. Relevant sites in the UK include:

http://www.bullying.co.uk/

http://www.beatbullying.org/

http://www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/

It would be wonderful if we can lend a little support to these and other organisations supporting anti-bullying campaigns, including this campaign from fellow blogger, Gammon and Chips, in the memory of a wonderful 16-year old girl, Izzy.

Red Hot or Ginger Minger?

My friend Aly has got a bit of a thing for ginger men. I suppose you could say that I have too, given the fact that I’m married to one, but the other day she posted a link to a site called Red Hot. Red Hot is the brainchild of a guy called Thomas Knight, who’s photographed a whole bunch of good-looking red-headed males and is exhibiting them in a London gallery this year as part of a campaign which is associated with the Anti-Bullying Alliance.

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Most people are aware of the stigma which seems to be attached to red-headedness, and as someone who grew up with a ginger Dad and a ginger best friend during High School, it always left me entirely bemused. I could never quite add up, in my head, what could be supposedly so negative someone’s hair colour, but the fact that the Anti-Bullying Alliance are involved just shows how deeply the stigma runs. As a mother to a red-headed child, it’s quite scary, if I’m honest.

Sausage is a pretty girl with a shock of bright red curls (and her best friend at school is ginger, too. In fact there are 4 of them in her class!) and she’s constantly complimented on her beautiful hair. In fact, she’s been know to (sometimes rather obliquely!) announce it at random, to strangers, as if they might not have noticed; “I have ginger hair!”, she’ll proudly say. It’s genuinely painful to me that, one day, that pride herself and her uniqueness might be stripped away by thoughtless bullies who don’t have the imagination to come up with a better insult.

I was under the, perhaps slightly naive, impression that the whole anti-ginger thing was dead and buried. The likes of Damien Lewis, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, Karen Gillan and Christina Hendricks have done wonders for making the world see how beautiful red hair is (even if some of them do come out of a bottle!) and it seemed to me that such narrow-minded nonsense was long-gone, but if the Red Hot guys are anything to go by, with their PR assault on the UK, then there’s still a long way to go before the insults are completely forgotten.

It was in the news this year that many sperm banks have stopped taking donations from red-headed men altogether because nobody wanted them. So, a woman is so desperate to conceive a baby that she’ll use a donor, but only if that baby has less of a chance of coming out ginger? Madness!

The thing that baffles me the most is that I completely fail to see what it is that’s wrong with red hair? Where I live (and I’m assuming in other parts of the UK, too) there’s a huge trend for girls trying to dye their hair red at the moment. It never looks as nice as natural ginger and you can see it’s fake from the stratosphere, but the intention for redness is there. Perhaps I’m biased because the two people I love most in the world are redheads, but to me it’s gorgeous. I know taste is wholly subjective, but I simply cannot see what is so objectionable about ginger hair that makes people act so appallingly to others.

So, come on people, tell me what it is that’s so bad about red hair? And if you can’t, I suggest you think twice before you make a ‘funny’ comment next time. Let’s change our stupid, pre-programmed bullshit and actually think about what we’re saying and how we’re treating a whole bunch of people. You wouldn’t comment on someone’s race/weight/sexuality in that way…would you?

Is Cyberbullying a Problem for Your Child?

Post provided by quib.ly

A survey commissioned by the Anti-Bullying Alliance has uncovered some very worrying statistics. 60.5% of UK parents believe that cyberbullying is part of everyday life for their children. The survey also asked parents whether they felt they were equipped to deal with the problems raised by cyberbullying. 40% of parents stated that they did not know how to handle cyberbulling issues, whilst 44% of teachers admitted that they didn’t know how to cope with instances of cyberbullying.

These are worrying statistics, but is the problem really as significant as parents and teachers think? The parenting advice website quib.ly investigates…

Is cyberbulling a widespread problem?

So it’s clearly a concern for parents and teachers, but does reality reflect these grown up worries about cyberbullying? In England at least it looks like the problem is not being overstated. 55% of kids surveyed claimed that they see cyberbulling as part of everyday life.

But the facts and figures vary. In March 2013, the NSPCC came out with research which suggested that 38% of children have been affected by the practice. It’s a very difficult thing to monitor. Children have very different perceptions of the issue – for those only indirectly involved, it may not seem like bullying. For the perpetrators of this type of online abuse, speaking honestly about the problem is not possible. Meanwhile, the media are always ready with shock stories which can trigger parental fears and cause more of a panic than necessary.

It does look like there is some disparity between the concerns of adults and the concerns of children on the issue. Just 40% of kids think that cyberbullying and how to deal with it should be included on the national curriculum. Meanwhile 69% of teachers believe that the issue should be incorporated into mandatory lessons at school.

Whatever the percentage of affected children – the figures are still too high. No children should experience persecution online. Whether you’re looking at the highest figure (60.5%) or the lower statistics (38%), these are not negligible figures. The problem needs to be tackled.

Is my child affected by cyberbulling?

In this climate it is understandable for parents to be concerned about their children online. It is difficult for children to speak out about cyberbullying and they may not even recognise that this is a problem affecting them. If you are worried that your child may be a victim of cyberbullying, there are a few warning signs to look out for:

  • Visible nervousness when receiving text and email alerts
  • Hides or closes computer and phone screens when you’re around
  • Withdrawal from friends and peers
  • Impaired academic performance
  • Loss of appetite, volatile moods, noticeable change in behaviour

Of course a lot of these signs are normal teenage behaviour associated with hormonal changes and teenage life. That’s why it’s important to talk to your child about cyberbullying and what’s going on in their life.

How to address the issue

Talk to your children. Make sure they know that you will be supportive no matter what people are saying online. Let them know you are in their corner and will do everything you can to protect them from online bullies.

If your child is evasive, it may be time to take a closer look at browser histories, emails and text messages. This is a drastic step as it constitutes as invasion of privacy, but if you find evidence of cyberbullying it’s crucial not to be angry and present a supportive shoulder for your child. The next step is taking the issue to a trusted teacher or, in extreme cases, to the police.

Bullies.

My lovely little sister.

Something happened today which upset me a lot.

I went into town to meet my little sister, she’d been working a lot and hadn’t had a chance to give Sausage her birthday present yet, so we met for coffee, a chat and a bit of toy and nail varnish shopping with the kiddo. It was lovely to see her, we often go weeks without seeing each other as her working days vary and I’m a nightmare to pin down sometimes, and we ambled around the high street for an hour or so, letting Sausage chatter away about her birthday and newly painted nails.

Just after we’d come out of Greggs, where Lil’ Sis’ had bought Sausage some lunch, a guy and his girlfriend walked past us. I noticed them at first because the female appeared to be giving my sister a really filthy look, which seemed odd. Then, as they got closer the male leaned right into my sisters path and said, with real vitriol, “Look at the f*cking state of that…”, before walking quickly off.

I stood, open-mouthed, watching them walk off sniggering to each other.

If I’m honest, my first reaction was to chase after them and give them both a serious amount of verbal, but as I had Sausage with me I restrained myself, although the anger was truly bubbling over in me. That was my baby sister (she’s 19, nearly 9 years younger than me) whose feelings they’d gone out of their way to hurt and I honestly felt like punching the guy. Lil’ Sis’ was naturally upset, but handled it with more grace than me, she just carried on walking and said “Oh well, he’s probably got a tiny willy…!”.

All of this got me thinking about a similar event that happened to me last year, as I was walking home from a hospital appointment. I was standing at a pelican crossing, waiting to cross a dual carriageway when a car full of blokes went past and one of them screamed “FAT PIG” out of the window at me. I was genuinely devastated and spent the rest of the walk home shaking and crying on the phone to my Mum. These weren’t children, they were all guys in their mid-to-late twenties, wearing suits, yet they felt it was appropriate to bully a woman on her own like this.

If I wasn’t already disillusioned, I am now.

The thing is, I am fat. There’s no denying it. But what on earth goes through the mind of a grown person who feels the need to shout it at someone from a moving car? My little sister isn’t average, she’s unique and makes some bold fashion choices. She’s a huge Gaga fan and expresses herself with hair, make-up and clothes and while I wouldn’t choose to wear studded leggings, she’s a really pretty girl and makes an effort with her appearance. But do you know what? I shouldn’t even be explaining that to you, what we look like is SHOULD BE inconsequential in all of this. The real question is – why are there some people in the world who are so filled with bile and hatred feel that they feel the need to bully, intimidate, abuse and attack innocent passers-by?

I can honestly say that I will NEVER get my head around the need some people feel to hurt other people’s’ feelings for their own amusement. There’s just no need and it makes me feel really sad about what our society must have become to allow things like this to happen. I know nobody is perfect but feeling the need to hurt the feelings of a stranger is a serious character flaw and the worse thing is, we’re the ones left stewing over it – the idiot who chose to attack my sister probably doesn’t even remember doing it.

Bullying is a serious problem and it’s not just happening in schools, it seems endemic in most walks of life. I know it probably makes me a terrible person for saying this, but I just hope this bloke says the wrong thing to the wrong person one day and gets a punch in the mouth.

That seems to be the only language that bullies understand.