How parents can make cyber-bullying worse

DEBORAH GOUGH
Last updated 12:02 05/02/2013
Cyber-bullying
PENNY STEPHENS/Fairfax

STAYING SAFE: Emily, Jenny and Amelia at Sacred Heart School.

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Parents who buy into their children's online disputes can continue the tirade long after their children have made up, warn bullying experts.

Judi Fallon, manager of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation's eSmart programme in Australia, said parents can exacerbate cyber bullying problems between schoolchildren.

Fallon said the problem could start at school, then continue at home on social media sites, where parents often became involved. "Kids being kids, they can end up friends the next day, but the parents continue on with it," she said.

Before Facebook became so prevalent, Fallon said, parents might have discussed problems with the parent of another child face to face, but now could fire off responses immediately in writing. "It can get out of hand," she said.

Getting parents to understand online safety issues was a challenge for most schools, she said. More than 1000 Victorian schools have adopted the eSmart program, which aims to educate children, parents and teachers about the need for responsible and respectful behaviour online.

Fallon said about 80 per cent of the schools in its programme had created a Facebook alternative for students so they could monitor and coach children in cyber safety.

Sacred Heart School, in Melbourne, has created "Fakebook" for its students. Principal Mary Lawrey said she had polled year 3 to year 6 students over a year ago and found half had a Facebook page, often set up by parents or older siblings. Facebook prohibits use by children under 13.

Today is Safer Internet Day, a global awareness day about online safety.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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