Most children have now returned to education after the summer break with many starting a new school, whether that be because they have moved house or they may have moved up to secondary level.
These changes can be hard for many people but they can also leave children in vulnerable situations.
When starting a new school you meet new people.
You don’t know their backgrounds, their family, their home life and you suddenly realise your child has left the familiarity of their previous school.
While making new friends is great, there can be risks involved too, especially as younger people make their way into adulthood.
Although your child is probably getting more independent by the day, it is still a good idea to keep an eye on what they are up to, both on and off line.
Keep your eye out for changes in their behaviour which may be an indicator that something is wrong and speak to your child about issues such as bullying, cyber-bullying, smoking, drinking, drugs, abuse – they may seem like difficult conversations to have but believe me the consequences of not raising these subjects can be a lot worse.
Many people fall into the belief that their child would have to be on a computer, tablet or game console to be at risk online – in fact, your child is more likely to be targeted through their smart phone.
These phones are great for many things, keeping in touch or even seeing where your child is, are two of the advantages.
However, they also have access to the internet and a whole array of apps which could pose potential risks – speak with your phone operator to seek advice on how you can limit access but most importantly speak with your child about how they can protect themselves and to have an open and honest relationship with you – let them know you won’t be angry with them if they were to find themselves in an uncomfortable situation and you will be able to help them.
We may feel like some chats are too difficult as you don’t know what you are talking about – online chatting or gaming for example.
This is where charities such as the NSPCC and the Breck Bednar Foundation come in – their websites are full of information about how to have these conversations with young people and are an excellent place to start.
It’s not just those who think their child could be a potential victim who should worry about these issues, everyone should get involved – if your child is not a victim of bullying, could they be a perpetrator?
Do they know the impact their actions, no matter how trivial they think they are, could have on a victim?
I am not trying to frighten parents or children, but prevention is definitely better than cure – or dealing with the consequences of something which could have been stopped with a simple chat.