Its a very sad fact but these days, bullies are everywhere. Traditionally confined to the playground in the ‘old days’, bullies are found everywhere, from the adult workplace to a child’s bedroom. Why would you child invite a bully into their own bedroom you ask? If your child is ‘online’, in any capacity, whether it be through an interactive game like Minecraft, a social media site like Facebook or a free messaging app like Snapchat or Kik, they are susceptible to cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is defined as the use of information technology to deliberately and repeatedly harm or harass another person. Mobile phones, camera’s, tablet devices and computers can be used to share the content wide, fast and permanently, which is why it can be so dangerous and so hurtful. A lot of people can view the cyberbully’s comments and/or images, particularly people it was not intended to reach, and once information is on the internet, it is there for good, damaging reputations and embarrassing friends and family members for a potentially long time.
What To Look For
As a parent, it is hard to draw a line between letting your child have privacy and trusting them to use their internet privileges responsibly and keeping an eye on them. Most parents have filters and security to prohibit certain software being downloaded, but very little can be done to control the conversations between kids online. Some signs to look out for when you do check on your child’s interactions include:
- embarrassing photos or videos
- nasty or threatening messages through social networking sites like Facebook, or through other sites where people can comment, question, interact.
- harrassing and repeated calls, texts and emails
- rumours, gossip and/or slander through calls, texts or emails
- people stealing passwords or hacked accounts and changed information
- nasty and derogatory comments
- posting rude, racial or discriminatory pictures, ‘meme’s’ and cartoons on Facebook walls
- fake profiles set up in your child’s name, or your child setting one up in a fake name
- any behaviour that seeks to intimidate, control, manipulate or humiliate another person
A cyberbully can be someone you know, someone your child knows, or an online stranger. Unfortunately, most cyberbullies hide behind fake profiles to provide anonymity and protect themselves from getting caught. This cowards act can make it very hard for children to know who to trust in the outside world.
Cyberbullying vs Cyberstalking
Cyberstalking is a form of cyberbullying and is usually a problem for adults rather than children. Unfortunately, the practice of cyberbullying is not limited to children and teenagers, but the term cyberstalking means the same thing, it is just usually used as a distinction in age groups. Cyberstalking is inflicted from one adult to another and is usually used to threaten someone’s relationships, employment, reputation, income or personal safety. Cyberstalking includes (but is not limited to) repeated acts of:
- false accusation
- gossip and rumours
- identity theft
- damage to personal data and equipment
- gathering information to harrass
- solicitation of minors for sex
How To Protect Your Child (or Yourself)
Cyberbullies cannot be controlled, but they can be deterred. Some ways to protect yourself from cyberbullying include:
- Don’t share personal information, such as passwords, name, address, phone numbers etc with people you don’t know or don’t trust.
- Be cautious of sharing photos of yourself and your friends. Ask permission before posting photos of someone else, or their child
- Dont respond to messages when you are feeling hurt or angry. This can add fuel to the fire and encourage the bully
- Log out and stop messaging if you feel harrassed or victimised
- Delete, block or report
- If you are being bullied, keep a record of all emails, text messages, posts, calls and photos.
- Know how to set up privacy settings on social media sites
- Limit your child’s time on social media and communication sites
- Tell your child to report any bullying behaviour, (to them or someone else) to yourself, a teacher or another trusted adult.
If you think your child is being cyberbullied, or you believe you may be the victim of a cyberstalker, you must document all supporting evidence and seek legal help. Cyberbullies can not only get into trouble with the police and face fines and community orders, but their internet services can be revoked and they can face disciplinary action from their school or workplace.
Cyberbullies can also be reported to your local police and protection orders can be issued if you feel your safety is at risk. It is a good idea to obtain legal advice before speaking to police, however if you feel scared or threatened, you should go to the police immediately.