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How to spot the signs that your child is being cyber bullied

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Cyber bullying has become the chief concern for most parents in Australia but most can’t spot the signs their child is being targeted, according to the 2017 Norton Cyber Security Insights Report.

Released on the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence, the report says 80 per cent of parents are worried their child will be bullied online.

Unfortunately, in today’s always connected world, bullying doesn’t stop at the end of school – it’s an issue that can exist whenever they are connected to a device.

“Cyberbullying can be a sensitive subject and the conversations around online security are often thrown into the ‘too hard’ basket,” said Melissa Dempsey, Senior Director of Symantec’s Norton Business Unit in Asia Pacific and Japan.

“But these are important discussions for parents to have with their children to help ensure the child’s security and wellbeing, the same way we as parents have conversations around homework, diet and sleep schedules.”

Australian parents have numerous concerns about their children and their behaviour online.

Apart from cyber bullying, there are numerous other safety concerns including spending too much time in front of a screen (88 per cent), downloading malware (85 per cent – up from 60 per cent in 2016) and giving out too much information to strangers (82 per cent – up from 58 per cent in 2016).

But it doesn’t end there with 76 per cent of parents worried their child will post something that will come back to haunt them in the future (that’s up from 49 per cent in 2016) and 74 per cent worried their child will be lured into meeting a stranger (up from 50 per cent in 2016).

Yet despite all these concerns, parental supervision of children online is still alarmingly low.

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Less than a quarter of Australian parents reported always supervising the children online while 47 per cent supervise their child while online shopping and 36 per cent during video chats.

But only 26 per cent keep an eye on their kids when using social media and 29 per cent when checking or writing emails.

More Australian parents have become more aware of online harassment and bullying but most do not have enough information to recognise the signs.

Children are often hesitant to come forward because of embarrassment and fear so it’s up to the parent to take action.

Here are a few examples that may indicate a child is being cyber bullied:

– They appear nervous when receiving a text/online message or email

– Their habits with devices change. They may begin avoiding their devices or using them excessively

– They make excuses to avoid going to school

– They become defensive or secretive about online activity

– They withdraw from friends and family

– They have physical symptoms such as trouble sleeping, stomach aches, headaches, and weight loss or gain

– They begin falling behind in school or acting out

– Their grades start declining

– They appear especially angry, frustrated or sad, particularly after going online/checking devices

– They delete social media or email accounts.

And if a parent does find out their child is being cyber bullied, Norton recommends maintaining an open dialogue about the problem.

This way children are much more likely to confide in their parents and to tell them how they’re feeling and to find ways of dealing with it.

Parents can also counter cyber bullying by setting rules and guidelines about online etiquette, using strong online passwords and installing security software such as Norton Security Premium.