While a playground bully is easy enough to spot. Cyber-bullying is very hard to track, says Dingani Ngobeni, from the Department of Education (DoE).
"When real world bullying occurs in a school environment (classroom), teachers are often able to intervene, but online bullying takes place off the radar screen of adults, making it difficult to detect in schools and impossible to monitor off school property."
What parents can do
Ngobeni offered the following tips for parents:
• Learn as much as possible about the bullying your child is suffering before irrevocable damage is done. Parents have a key role in supporting the school by helping their children understand the issues surrounding use of the internet.
• Be aware of the sanctions a school will apply should a learner contravene the acceptable use policy, and the effects this may have on the child's education.
• Encourage children to develop their own moral code so they will choose to behave ethically both online and on the playground. Let them know what behaviour you find unacceptable and ask how they would feel if someone called them obese, stupid, or a loser.
• Talk to your child about responsible internet use and teach them never to post or say anything on the internet or cell phone they wouldn’t want the whole world - including you - to read.
• Create an online agreement or contract for computer use with your child’s input and take action when and if your child is being bullied online.
• Watch out for signs that your child is being bullied. Reluctance to use the computer, or cell phone or go to school may be an indication.
• If the bully is a learner at your child’s school, meet with school officials and ask for help in resolving the situation.
• Report any incident of online harassment and physical threat to your local police station and your Internet Service Provider.
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