Cyber-attacks are one of the biggest threats to the good health of our computers and networks, but what if there is no hack?
An attack of cyberbullying is where technology is used as a weapon to bully someone, with the intent of causing physical, emotional, or social harm. With the popularity of mobile devices soaring in recent years, along with the increase in the use of the internet by children, a surge of cyber-bullying has gone hand-in-hand with this trend. It is estimated media use is the most time-consuming activity of youths after sleeping, with adolescents perhaps seeking friendship online as a means of self-validation from their peers.
ReachOut report one in five young Australian's have been subjected to cyber-bullying at some point in their childhood. Most concerning is the rising number of high-profile cases of teenage suicide linked to being mistreated over the internet, making cyber-bullying prevention initiatives more important than ever.
Cyberbullying occurs in multiple ways, such as:
hurtful texts and messages
inappropriate images or videos
imitating a person's electronic identity
accessing someone's accounts to change their information or post online content on their behalf
humiliating someone online
malicious online gossip.
There is no set method for dealing with cyberbullies as every perpetrator, victim and incident is different. However, some recommended strategies for your child if they are a victim of cyber-bullying situation include:
advise someone you trust such as a parent, teacher, or friend
report bullying and harassment to online social media providers
block the bully on social media and other communication channels
adjust device privacy settings
change your passwords and do not share with anyone
avoid retaliating with a response
keep any evidence such as messages, print emails, or screenshot online conversations
reduce time spent online
distract yourself from the situation by doing things you enjoy such as catching up with friends, listening to music or playing sports
contact Kids Helpline, Australia's only free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counseling service for young people aged 5 to 25
Kelly Van Nelson is the author of Graffiti Lane, a contemporary poetry collection tackling social issues such as bullying and domestic violence. Graffiti Lane is available now through multiple distribution channels. Available on Amazon, Booktopia and Book Depository.
Question: At what age is it necessary to educate our children about cyber-safety?
Kelly Van Nelson: Children, sometimes as young as six or seven may have access to online material at school or at home. This means they can be exposed to risks relating to inappropriate content, contact, and conduct. It is therefore recommended parents begin to educate children about cyber-safety from primary school age. Most social media sites request users be over 13 years of age, but proof of age is not always sought. If a parent allows online access for their child it is important they educate about the risks and supervise the way it is used.
Question: What should parents be teaching their children in regards to cyber safety?
Kelly Van Nelson: Parents should spend time online together with their children to teach them appropriate online behaviour. Instilling the basics such as not accepting online friend requests from anyone they do not personally know and have never met is invaluable. Although social media providers are improving on how they tackle removing inappropriate content, parents should make sure their child is aware that anything posted may potentially remain online forever as screenshots can be taken and information can spread across channels and go viral. It is important children are taught how to practice good online etiquette, to be kind and avoid participating in negative posts, and to always portray themselves and others in a respectful manner online.
Question: How can parents actively educate themselves about cyber bullying?
Kelly Van Nelson: One of the best ways a parent can educate themselves about cyber bullying is to talk directly to their child about technology and the risks of cyber bullying. Ensuring open communication channels exist is one of the best ways to build trust and learn about online trends and behaviour.
The Australian Media and Communications Authority has an excellent website called eSafety which carries advice for children, parents and schools: https://esafety.gov.au. You can report serious online bullying to https://www.esafety.gov.au/complaints-andreporting.
There are Australian laws in each state and territory which apply to serious online harassment and online bullying behaviour using the internet, social media or a telephone to menace, harass or cause offence. Parents can consult their local police website for further information.
Question: What signs and symptoms of cyberbullying should parents look for in their children?
Kelly Van Nelson: Some of the warning signs that a child may be experiencing cyberbullying are:
• Nervousness when receiving emails, texts and messages
• Trying to hide the monitor while online
• Anxious about going to school
• Unwillingness to share information about online activity
• Angry or upset, sometimes worsening after going online
• Abruptly shutting down the computer mid-use
• Unexplained regular illness to avoid going to school
• Difficulty sleeping or not wanting to get up because they want to sleep more than necessary
• Unexplained weight loss or gain
• Suddenly depressed or anti-social
• Withdrawn from close friends and family
• Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
Question: What advice do you have for parents around supervision of their children's online activity?
Kelly Van Nelson: Ideally parents should keep computer use to common areas where it is easy to monitor activity. It also makes it easier to limit screen activity to an appropriate amount of time and to coach children to use this time wisely. Knowing their child's password allows them to check their device if needed. Letting children know monitoring online activity helps keep them safe is a good conversation to have at the offset when setting technology rules and boundaries. Parents should also familiarise themselves with social media sites in use and follow their child's online accounts.
There is also the option of implementing a practical family media plan, offering child-friendly search engines, parental controls to block websites, enhanced privacy settings, and in-built monitoring.
Question: What information does a parent need to provide regarding teenagers and social media accounts?
Kelly Van Nelson: Advice a parent can give their teenager relating to social media accounts includes:
• Technology access is a privilege that should not be abused.
• Online communication should be conducted in a kind and respectful manner.
• Regularly check and re-set social network profile settings. Most social networking sites start new accounts with minimum privacy.
• Restrict private information being shared to people you know, like name, address, phone numbers or date of birth.
• Do not share your password with anyone.
• Never share images that you wouldn't be comfortable with a parent or teacher seeing.
• You can block, delete and report anyone harassing you online or on your mobile.
• Keep a record of any hurtful calls, messages, posts and emails.
• Tell you if online activity ever causes concern so you can help them navigate through the situation.
Interview by Brooke Hunter