In school we are dealing with more and more incidents of students being upset and bullied by what other students are putting on Facebook about them and the texts they are sending each other – this is cyber bullying. Although strictly this is out of school’s jurisdiction it is having an impact on students’ learning and their relationships with their peers in the school environment.
What can you do to help your child use Facebook and mobiles safely?
Talk to your child and be aware of what they are posting on Facebook and what is being posted about them. Encourage them to have you as a “friend” on Facebook so that you can monitor their page – you will have to be a model Facebooker yourself though!
Ensure your child has updated their privacy settings – Facebook tends to default to keep information public and accessible to everyone until the user changes it to private. “Friends Only” is a good choice for most things but you can be even more selective than that. It is a good idea to pre-approve tags on photos etc as well.
Encourage your child to only have people they know and trust as friends on Facebook.
Give them rules about what not to post:
No sexy, explicit or provocative photos or comments – they could be committing an offence under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act.
No alcoholic drinking or smoking photos – they are breaking the law if under 18.
No photos of them doing anything that could be used against them in the future.
No unkind or abusive comments as a status.
No unkind or abusive comments on someone’s wall.
No unkind or abusive comments on friends’ posts.
Remind them to ask themselves why they are posting something, who will be able to read it and whether it can be misunderstood or used against them later.
Talk to your child about the importance of not sending offensive texts, Multimedia Messages (MMS) or nude or indecent images to any other person – they could be committing an offence under the 2003 Sexual Offences Act.
Talk to your child about not retaliating to offensive comments or pictures that they might receive – it could mean they end up committing the same offences.
What to do if your child is being cyber-bullied
Report any abusive or offensive behaviour to Facebook themselves – they have agreements and policies to remove postings and even close down profiles.
Delete or block any unwanted friends. Change or create a new profile if necessary.
Save and print out any evidence of the upsetting/abusive/offensive texts or pictures.
DO NOT become offensive or threatening yourself, or allow your child to be, as you are then committing the same offences of harassment and malicious communications as the “offender” which makes it extremely difficult for the police to deal with an individual. All parties could then be subject to police action, including you and your child.
If you cannot stop the problem yourself and the behaviour is continuing, contact the police on 08456 060 247.
You can report all misuse of phones and the internet by going to the thinkuknow.co.uk website and clicking the reporting button. This site is operated by the Child Exploitation Online Protection Agency (CEOP), commonly known as “The Internet Police Station”
Encourage your child to use the CEOP Facebook app that ensures they are safer online. It costs nothing to add and they can share the ‘Report a Problem’ badge on their status update. By sharing it they become part of the solution, not part of the problem. In an ideal world every person on Facebook would add the CEOP app to their own profile. When you report a problem via the CEOP badge it is dealt with immediately by a team of expert Police investigators. It’s like them having their own hotline to headquarters. http://apps.facebook.com/clickceop/
If necessary, change their mobile phone number.
What will the Police do?
In the first instance the police will warn the “offender”. However, if the behaviour continues they may decide to prosecute under the Protection of Harassment Act 1997, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 or the Malicious Communications Act 1998. This will result in a Criminal Bureau Record being created which will stay with your child for their lifetime.
When is an offence committed?
Protection of Harassment Act, 1997 – an offence is committed by any person who causes alarm, harassment or distress to another person
Malicious Communications Act, 1988 – an offence is committed when, by using any communication technology, the information sent is threatening, abusive or malicious.
Sexual Offences Act, 2003 – an offence is committed when sending any image that may be indecent in its nature; includes explicit pornography, child pornography or offensive images that someone finds unacceptable because of the indecent nature portrayed.
Remember . . . once the police open up an investigation and can justify accessing phone records or accessing computers, is there anything else that could be found that can incriminate a person or members of their family? The police can access all deleted items on a phone, hard drive or internet browsing history.
The Digital Tattoo (aka – the toothpaste tube problem…)
It is now becoming more common place for employers and colleges to ‘Google’ people before interviewing potential candidates. The more information your child makes available publicly on the web the more risk they have of creating a digital tattoo that is impossible to remove. That web profile is seen before they are and therefore the comments they made about Aunt Ethel’s party, the photos that were taken when they and their friends were playing dares and the words they used when they realised their team had lost their latest match could all become the first impression they make to people.
People have lost jobs and been removed from colleges because of their internet activity – don’t let that be them.
Why is it also known as the toothpaste tube problem? Have you ever tried getting toothpaste back into the tube?
Please click on the link below for the booklet version of the information above: