Tuesday 21 November 2017

Parents should look for warning signs of cyberbullying, says expert

Lecturer Maggie Brennan
Lecturer Maggie Brennan

Parents worried that their child is a victim of cyberbullying or predatory online behaviour should keep an eye out for key warning signs.

A child who appears angry or frustrated after being online could be showing signs that they have been a target, according to a leading psychologist.

Maggie Brennan - a lecturer at the School of Applied Psychology in University College Cork - said that a child becoming particularly nervous, upset or jumpy when they are using an online-enabled device could point to bullying.

"They may unexpectedly stop using their device," she told the Herald.

"They may appear to be kind of angry, sometimes maybe depressed and frustrated - particularly after going online.


"Very often, you can find the tears might be close to the surface after some kind of an online episode.

"What you often find are more general signs of depression or anxiety, things like interrupted sleep patterns.

"They might be not sleeping enough, particularly if their sleep time at night is being intruded or interrupted by some kind of online targeting, for example."

The advice is that children shouldn't be allowed to sleep with devices in their room.

"There could also be issues around over-sleeping, or any significant change in sleep patterns. You might find they get up very early before school," Ms Brennan said.

If a child becomes withdrawn from the usual friends or family or loses interest in hobbies or if they are evasive and secretive, it could be an indication that something is wrong.


Ms Brennan is one of the co-founders of CyberSafeIreland, a not-for-profit organisation that helps children, parents and teachers navigate the online world.

Cybercrime expert Cliona Curley, who is another co-founder of the group, told the Herald that issues such as online grooming and cyberbullying were a concern for parents.

"What we also worry about is kids losing control of their images and their data, and maybe damaging their digital reputation before they even get to the age where they can vote," she said.

"So these are all risks.

"This year we are aiming to get into 80 schools, but we have a really ambitious national roll-out plan."

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