No doubt you’ve heard the devastating news about Amy ‘Dolly’ Everett – a beautiful and caring 14-year-old girl who took her own life earlier this year after being tormented by cyber bullies. Dolly’s parents are determined to ensure their daughter’s life wasn’t lost in vain, and to raise anti-bullying awareness to prevent more suffering from cyber bullying.

Sadly there are many children who commit suicide from cyber bullying each year, although most of us are oblivious to what’s really going on out there. Dolly’s story in particular has hit a raw nerve, and hopefully it will start conversations that may make all the difference in saving other innocent young lives.

Cyber Bullying Is A Complex Issue

Cyber bullying is a complex issue. There are never any winners involved, only pain and suffering. Usually the perpetrator has their own issues to deal with and doesn’t understand that bullying of any sort is never acceptable behaviour – or just doesn’t care.  Obviously the victims suffer from the vile and generally untrue comments directed their way.  And then there are the bystanders – all those other children who see the behaviour and are torn between wanting to help the victim and not wanting to get involved.

One of the big questions of course is, why do kids engage in cyber bullying? There are several different reasons for it that I won’t go into here, but you can read more about the root cause of cyber bullying here.

Cyber bullying affects the majority of kids in schools in some way. Those not directly involved are usually aware of it happening and are negatively affected by it.  The challenge for parents in dealing with cyber bullying is huge, and it’s multiplied even further when the children dealing with the bullying directly are not living with their parents.

When your kids are living with you, there are signs to look for that may indicate a cyber bullying issue. Maybe you notice your child’s behaviour change after they check their phone. They could be withdrawn and not wanting to take part in activities they used to love. Cyber bullying can often cause eating problems or a lack of appetite, or it can result in a lack of sleep. But how are you supposed to be aware of any of that when your child lives miles away?

What You Can Do From A Distance

The biggest tip generally to keeping your kids safe online is to engage in quality conversations regularly with them, and make sure the lines of communication remain open at all times. Your kids need to know they can come to you if there’s a problem, and that you’re there for them and will support them no matter what.

This still applies to some extent when your kids are at boarding school. However it will be easier for them to hide the fact they’re being cyber bullied (or, just as bad if not worse, that they’re cyber bullying others) from a distance. The statistics vary but most show that around 90% of children won’t tell their parents if they’re being cyber bullied. So what are you supposed to do about it?

It’s time like these that technology is not only part of the problem, but can also provide part of the solution.  There are many parental control apps and software solutions available that can help you stay more in touch with your child’s online activities. However knowing which app is right for you is a minefield in itself!

The good news is that there is one product in particular that is ideal for helping rural parents keep their children safe online, no matter what the physical distance is between them. That product is called Family Zone.

Why Family Zone?

Firstly I’d like to confirm that I am not personally employed by Family Zone. The reason I believe they offer the best alternative for rural families in online safety is because I’ve done the research.

Some parental control apps allow you to see everything your child sees, says and does online, as well as everything anyone else says or writes to them. Not only is this an unnecessary intrusion on your child’s privacy, but it’s usually not viable for you to spend the time monitoring that sort of activity.  Your child is likely to see this as “spying” on them, and they’re likely to succeed in finding ways around being monitored in this way. Think about it: would you have wanted your parents to listen in on every conversation you had as a tween or teenager?

One of the reasons I like Family Zone’s parental control product is because it sends you alerts if it detects activity that looks like cyber bullying, or any other inappropriate behaviour.  That means your child can maintain their privacy unless a problem arises, and there’s no need to spend hours you don’t have sorting through innocent content.

For rural families in particular, Family Zone has other specific benefits:

  • It protects every device in every location
  • It enables you to remotely control your child’s device if need be
  • You can use it to block, restrict or limit access to inappropriate content

And here’s the best bit: if your child tries to delete the Family Zone app you’ll be alerted immediately – and they’ll be disconnected from the internet.

What’s The Catch?

In case you’re wondering what the catch is, the parental control software itself is only part of the solution. It’s very important that you implement the use of the app in the right way with your child so that they’re supportive of the app being there. The point is to strengthen the bond between you and your child, not to cause arguments between the two of you.

This is where Dolly’s story becomes crucial.  Discuss with your child the reason you want to use the Family Zone app, and that it’s NOT to spy on them, or because you don’t trust them. Precious lives like Dolly’s, and like your child’s, may be saved for the sake of a grand total of $5.95 per month (after a free trial month). When you put it like that it really is a no-brainer.

Next Step: Take Action

If you haven’t already done so, please talk with your children about Dolly. She is one of countless innocent children who have seen no escape from cyber bullying other than suicide. If your child is aware of someone else being bullied online, maybe their friendship could save that child’s life before it’s too late.

Talk to your child about installing Family Zone’s app into your devices. Let them know how important it is that they tell you if they’re being cyber bullied. And please, reassure them that no matter how bad life gets, suicide is never the right answer.