“Cyber bullying (n.) – The act of harassing someone online by sending or posting mean messages, usually anonymous”
In past blogs we’ve delved in to the world of cyber security, looking at keeping your passwords complex, dodging spam and hiding your identity online. However, one of the most important things we need to keep safe online is our children. Kids are more exposed on the internet than ever, and the process of keeping them safe online isn’t just limited to monitoring the sites they visit and how long they spend in front of a screen every day. An important part of keeping your child safe online is through teaching them how to deal with potential cyber bullies.
Cyber bullying has become more and more prevalent in the last few years, with kids becoming more active on social media sites like Twitter and Instagram. Whilst these websites are a great source of enjoyment for youngsters, having a public profile means that anyone around the world can contact your kids and easily set up an anonymous account to mask their identity. With this level of exposure online, it’s understandable for parents to be wary about their kids’ online presence. 70% of young people have reportedly been victims of cyber bullying and 56% claimed to have witnessed someone being cyber bullied, with 42% of children claiming they have felt insecure online at some point. This has, understandably led 85% of parents not believing their children are fully safe online.
When many people think of cyber-bullying, they tend to think of just abusive messages; however bullying can exist in many mediums online;
- Sharing of inappropriate images or videos
- Sharing of embarrassing images or videos
- Creating a page or account with the purpose of harassing someone
- Revealing someone’s personal information i.e. address or phone number
- Sending viruses
With that being said, we have some handy tips to pass on to your kids to make sure they’re prepared to deal with potential cyber bullies.
Should your child find themselves on the receiving end of cyber-bullying from another user, they should always block them. A blocking function is available on all social media sites and allows you to stop specific users from messaging, tagging and interacting with them any way on that specific platform. That user will then be placed on your “block list”, where you can view who you have blocked and decide to unblock them at some point in the future if you feel this course of action is necessary. On most sites, when blocking a person, you’re presented with the option to report them, leading on to our next tip…
Any time your child feels bullied, attacked or harassed online, they should always be encouraged to report the bully’s actions to the website. All social media sites have a method of reporting a person to administrators, with many having provisions in place to specifically report cyber bullying. In situations where interactions are more serious, it’s recommended to screenshot the interactions and file a report with the police. Threatening behaviour can be classed as a criminal offence in the UK and may even be against the 1997 Harassment Act. As posts and messages on social media can sometimes be deleted, it is important to provide evidence to the relevant authorities when reporting such crimes.
Lock it down
All social media sites have the ability for the user to restrict what other users can see. Instagram and Twitter, for example, allow a user to be “private” and require the account’s owner to accept requests from other users to view their content. Facebook allows users to hide their profile from non-friends searching for them and restrict their posts to certain groups of people they have as friends. To take this one step further, even though sharing posts and photos is encourage on these sites, it’s not required!
Take a step back
It’s important to remember that there’s a big beautiful world away from a device screen! If your child is showing signs of anxiety, stress or depression from their exchanges online, try and get them to concentre on something other than their social media presence.
Watching a film together, assigning chores or taking the dog for a walk can be a great way to change your child’s mood and get their mind away from the online world. This might not solve the problem of cyber-bullies, but it can help alleviate anxiety the online world can cause at times.
We’ve included some links below with more information on what cyber bullying is and how to deal with it.
(Statistics from www.nobullying.com)