A recent study says that one in five children say they have been the victim of online bullying. Zenith Optimedia surveyed over 1,000 Irish adults and 186 children. Although one in five children reported to have been bullied online, the survey showed that parents underestimate just how common cyber bullying is, with only one in ten believing their child to be a victim.

The study showed that over half of online harassment took place on Facebook. What is clear is that there is an inconsistency between what parents think is happening and what kids are dealing with online.

Social media is here to stay

The majority of children have access to a smart device

While whats 'hip' might change (anyone remember Bebo?) but social media is here to stay. It starts as early as primary school. As soon as a classmate joins it becomes paramount to follow the herd.

When teaching 6th Class, we had a meeting about SnapChat and Facebook, largely because many parents were unfamiliar with it and to be honest, teachers weren’t either! What use could a 12 year old have for a Facebook? But the reality set in that although there was no need, they still signed up.

Social media can be a great tool when used appropriately. But it's very important to keep on top of these developments. So what can parents do to promote online safety? Here are somethings you should consider.

1. Educating yourself

As a parent educate yourself on social media

Familiarize yourself with social media and get involved! Simply saying 'No' just doesn’t cut it anymore. Kids want to be involved in what's new!

Setup your own account to see how the site or app works. Look out for things like what options there are to report a user or comment, privacy settings, are there any external apps? (photo storage? etc) Arm yourself with information and be proactive.

A list of popular social media sites are: Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube but again, popular sites change all the time.

2. Talk to your kids!

Have an open mind about Social Media

Cyber bullying should never be the elephant in the room. Whatever you’ve found or discovered in your sleuth work, share it and get the kids on board. If you keep an open mind, they’re more likely to understand your point of view, they’re more likely to follow your advice, and if there’s a problem, to come to you about it. Open communication is key.

3. Privacy settings

Always keep on top of changes to Privacy Settings

Something adults are not always au fait with either! They’re constantly changing so it’s a good idea to keep on top of this by regularly checking updates.

Kids can underestimate just how open the world wide web is and how easy information can be sent Photo-tagging, location tagging and sharing posts are all innocent ways children can give out large pieces of information unbeknownst to themselves.

Questions to ask; Who can tag the account, is the profile searchable? What is available to the public? To specific friends?

4. Respecting others and consequences

Remember to teach the consequences of online activity

Social media etiquette is very important. What might be posted as a joke could be seen as malicious. Simple questions to ask before your child makes a post could be; is it right to tag a 'funny' picture of someone else? Of their home? Would they like that information about them known publicly? Would you like this posted of you?

5. Should there be restrictions?

Talk to your kids about being online

Parents vary on restrictions for the Internet. Some prefer a common computer area in the living room or kitchen to monitor. Others set strict times on when kids can use the internet. Others become friends with their kids online to keep a closer eye.

Whatever your fancy is, the most important thing to keep the conversation open. Making sure that your child is comfortable talking to you about social media is key. Be approachable and open minded.