Young people adapt to new technologies quickly and easily. They use technology to explore opportunities for social interaction, and to learn about their world and express themselves, but they also have to navigate challenges most parents never had to deal with.

While children are often more tech savvy, they’re not always emotionally or mentally mature enough to deal with online abuse, harassment and cyberbullying.

20 percent of secondary students have experienced some sort of online harassment.

This is a rate twice that of the wider population. In response to these unacceptable statistics, New Zealand has introduced new laws and services to combat harmful digital communications.

Finding help with online bullying in New Zealand can be a challenge. There’s no standard process on how to deal with it, or checklist on what to look for. This is because every incident is different. And every child reacts to their experience in a unique way.

But there are things you can do with your children that will help.

What you can do as a parent

Set expectations: Talk to your child about what they want to do online and the type of behaviours you would like them to adopt. Discuss the ways they can keep themselves safe, the potential dangers they might experience and help them understand what to do if they come across a problem.

Understand what they do online: Regularly ask your child about the kinds of sites they use and what they do – what’s involved, who’s in their network and what information they share. Showing an interest helps build your understanding of what they do online and makes it easier to have more difficult conversations about their online experiences in the future.

You might also want to ask your child about the advice they would give to a friend experiencing cyberbullying or online abuse. Young people often find it easier to discuss things in the third person and will often disclose more about what they do and how they behave online.

Build resiliency: Everyone will face challenges online. Successfully managing them is a positive experience that builds skills and resilience that empowers young people to successfully manage future challenges Take the time to talk about the issues you have encountered (online or offline), where you got help and how you resolved the problem. Encourage young people to do the same.

Set a good example: Have you published an angry posts or shared something online that might hurt someone else? Take stock of the way you use technology and identify the kind of role models that are in their environment.

Count to ten before you react: When young people seek your help with online abuse, harassment or cyberbullying, it’s important to understand that this was a big decision. If you react strongly or take away their technology, then you are less likely to be the first port of call next time something goes wrong. Focus on fixing the issue not on punishing those involved or confiscating devices.

Help with online bullying in New Zealand

While education is one part of having a positive online experience, there are other tools like the Harmful Digital Communications Act (the Act) that can help people who are subject to abuse and harassment online.

The Act aims to prevent and reduce the impact of cyberbullying, harassment, revenge porn and other forms of abuse and intimidation. It provides quick and affordable ways for people to get help if they are receiving serious or repeated harmful digital communications.

Netsafe can now receive, assess and investigate complaints of harm caused by digital communications under the Act. This new service is available to all New Zealand internet users experiencing online harassment, offering help and advice to resolve complaints.

Under the Act, Netsafe will be able to advise if there is anything that can be done to stop the abuse, work with those involved to stop it and may liaise with online content hosts to remove harmful content. Netsafe will also be able to inform those involved of the likely outcome if they were to proceed to the District Court with a civil complaint.

More information about Netsafe’s new service, details on the Act and guides for staying safe online can be found at netsafe.org.nz

About Netsafe

Netsafe is an independent non-profit organisation with an unrelenting focus on online safety and security. Netsafe’s purpose is to enable all New Zealand internet users to confidently access digital opportunities and prevent online harm.

Netsafe’s contact centre is open 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 5pm on weekends. Reports can also be made directly on their website.

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Martin is the CEO of Netsafe. He's regularly in the media explaining online challenges for internet users. His knowledge about online safety is sought out by many. In his downtime, Martin enjoys spending time with his two boys, working on his many DIY projects and playing online games.

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