Why we must unite to prevent cyberbullying

Next story

Cyberbullying has, unfortunately, become a pervasive part of the online experience for children and teenagers.

Statistics show that:

  • Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying.
  • More than one in three 3 young people have experienced cyberthreats online.1

Bullying is defined as the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, and preventing it has always been a difficult task, as it can be tricky to spot the signs early. However, this has become even more challenging since the advent of smartphones. While abuse was previously limited mostly to school hours, instant messaging and social networks now mean that bullying can spill over into children’s leisure time at home.

And the effects are chilling. According to the US government website stopbullying.gov, children who are bullied can experience negative physical, social, emotional, academic, and mental health issues. They’re more likely to have depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, even loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy—all issues that may persist into adulthood.

In addition, children who bully others are more likely to engage in violent and other risky behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse, criminal activity and partner or child abuse as adults.

These statistics are one of the principal reasons that ESET set up Safer Kids Online, a platform that compiles advice on how to stay up to date with the ever-changing online world. The mission is to build a safer online environment by educating children, parents, and teachers about cybersecurity.

As highlighted by efforts such as October’s National Bullying Prevention Month in the US, online bullying is not a problem that can be solved by individuals. It is crucial that we all work together. Unlike bullying in the real world, cyberbullying can happen anywhere and at any time, through phones, computers, and game consoles.

So it’s vital for parents and teachers to be educated on how to spot red flags when it comes to cyberbullying. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to distinguish common teenage issues from those arising from cyberbullying. See this article on Safer Kids Online for red flags that you can look out for, including:

  • Visible physical changes
  • Sudden mood changes or loss of interest in normal activities
  • Pretending to be sick to avoid school
  • Deleting social network profiles
  • Abnormal social withdrawal
  • Belongings getting “lost” or damaged

If a child is displaying these signs, it’s time to sit down and ask them whether they feel that they are being targeted by bullies online. They need to know that they can confide in you without feeling threatened or judged, and that you are there to help them resolve the issues that they are experiencing.

Once you know what the issue is, you can then give clear advice on how to solve it. The first step is to demonstrate how to deal with a digital bully, for example by using the block and report features that are provided by social networks and online platforms. Next, discuss the importance of privacy awareness. Explain why they should not talk to users they do not know in real life. Children should not interact with strangers, and their profile should only be visible to their friends.

Lastly, technology can also help keep children safe when they are using their mobile device. ESET Parental Control is a family-friendly app that allows parents to manage the online safety of their kids and prevent future problems from arising. It comes with features such as Web Guard and Safe Search, which control which content is displayed on the device, and Application Guard, which helps parents manage which apps kids spend time on.

To learn more about how to protect children online, including in-depth guides on issues such as social media, articles with advice for parents, and interactive videos for kids, visit SaferKidsOnline.

1Source: iSAFE