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As digital continues to grow and influence the day to day lives of children, and with the new school year already underway, do you find yourself worrying about the risks your children may face online, especially when it comes to cyberbullying? And do you feel that you know enough about cyberbullying – the signs, the various forms and what measures you can put in place – to not only protect your children but to be able to help them if they face this very real issue?
“Despite the many benefits the digital world offers, an unfortunate challenge many parents face today is that they don’t always realise when children are being impacted by cyberbullying,” says Riaan Badenhorst, General Manager for Kaspersky Lab Africa. “This is in no way a reflection on parenting styles, but rather the result of not understanding the different types of cyberbullying that exist and with that, the proactive steps that can be put into place to help protect children from this very dangerous and growing online threat. There are many forms of cyberbullying, and getting a grip on these can assist parents in not only having a better understanding for themselves but to also educate their children on what to look out for.”
Forms of cyberbullying:
- Exclusion – is the deliberate act of leaving someone out – like when a child is excluded from friends’ parties or activities. It can also occur when a child’s friends are having online conversations and tagging other friends but not them.
- Outing – involves the deliberate act of embarrassing or publicly humiliating a child or group of children, online, through the posting of private, personal, sensitive or embarrassing information, without the child’s permission to do so. Outing can happen in a variety of ways and parents should consider that even reading out aloud a child’s saved message(s) from their mobile phone can be considered a form of outing.
- Fraping – involves the act of someone logging into someone else’s social networking accounts and impersonating that person by posting inappropriate content, using their name. Parents are likely to be familiar with this type of bullying, as they may have personally experienced it, often in a joking manner. Unfortunately for children, however, it is more than often not a joke. Fraping can lead to reputational damage and have serious consequences. ‘Google never forgets’ – and so anything posted online is never fully gone, even after it is deleted.
- Trolling – is a deliberate act of provoking a response through the use of insults or bad language on online forums and social networking sites. A troll aims to personally attack a child, in the hopes that the child becomes angry enough to act in the same way, to get a reaction – and then possibly looks to use it against the child, to get them into trouble at school or with an adult.
- Catfishing – is when another person steals a child’s online identity and photos, and creates new or alternative social networking profiles, for misleading purposes. A catfish is someone who wants to hide who they really are and does this through creating a fake persona, using images and information they found (and stole) online.
- Harassment – is sustained, constant and intentional bullying that involves abusive or threatening messages sent to a child or group of children. The messages are mostly malicious and aimed at attacking a child’s confidence and self-esteem.
Continues Badenhorst; “All forms of cyberbullying should be perceived by parents/guardians of children as very dangerous and therefore requires immediate attention, as any type of cyberbullying can have massive implications to a child’s well-being.”
How parents/guardians can help:
Kaspersky Lab offers a few guidelines that can be followed by parents/guardians, as a means to help children deal with cyberbullying:
- It is important that parents/guardians are tolerant of the situation and do not ‘overreact’ leaving the child feeling scared and embarrassed. Cyberbullying can take some time to fix and so being open and talking through the issue with your child, showing support, can be beneficial in dealing with the problem.
- Be open and talk about cyberbullying with your children – using things like TV programmes as teachable moments around bullying and online behaviour. Ask them their views on cyberbullying and talk through these.
- Parents/guardians should be conversation starters on the topic – don’t wait for your child to raise the matter – look for signs of cyberbullying as the earlier the matter is picked up the faster it can be dealt with.
- Monitor your children’s online activities. Understand what they do on social networks, which platforms they use and who their friends are online. It’s not about ‘policing’ their behaviour, but monitoring is important.
- Explain to your children that they should alert you as the parent, or alert a trusted adult, if they are being cyberbullied – that they will not be judged but can seek the right help to fix the issue. Ensure they understand that cyberbullying is not okay – and that it is better to talk up and report it so that the right help can be initiated.
- Do not take your child’s mobile device away or disconnect their devices from the Internet – this will only frustrate them – rather talk to them and help them with the challenge and monitor their mobile time and use, depending on their age.
- Educate children about basic online security rules – what can and should not be shared – and privacy guidelines. Ensure their social media pages are set on private, encourage them to only connect with people they know (friends and family) and talk to them about the types of images they share online.
- Make use of applications, such as Kaspersky Safe Kids, to help you manage your children’s screen time and use of certain apps. Such a solution allows you to set rules for website access, ensuring that sites with harmful content can be blocked. It also uses a GPS tracker, meaning that you can locate your children’s whereabouts on a real-time online map should you need to. In fact, in 2018 in South Africa, the Kaspersky Safe Kids solution helped track and find a missing teen, which supported in her safe return home.
“A result of the digital world is that children today are dealing with so much more than adults ever had to a few years ago. This means parents/guardians need to educate themselves on these realities and develop an understanding around how they can protect their children effectively, as well as invest in solutions that can support this. It is the responsibility of parents/guardians to ensure children are protected from the dangers of the online world – including cyberbullying,” concludes Badenhorst.