In cyberspace, bullies can hide and cheaters can prosper. With a new school year on the horizon, security firm McAfee looked at the disconnect between bullying, cheating teens, and their parents’ awareness — or lack thereof.
Almost a quarter of kids ages 10 to 17 have witnessed online cruelty — 89 percent of which takes place on Facebook. But when only 10 percent of parents are aware of cyber bullying, most teens are left to fend for themselves, often with disastrous real-world consequences.
As a result of online interactions, 29 percent of teenagers have had an argument with a friend; another 22 percent have even ended a friendship with someone. Meanwhile, 13 percent of kids have feared for their safety or been afraid to go to school following an episode of cyber bullying.
Though parents claim to regulate and monitor their child’s online behavior, many admit that they are overwhelmed by technology, outsmarted by their own kids, and simply can’t keep up with online advancements, McAfee said.
That loophole allows kids to find new ways of hiding their activities, which are sometimes illegal or just plain mean.
“Parents must realize that young people are aware of the threats associated with risky online activity, yet will continue to engage in this behavior,” the security firm said. “Therefore, simply monitoring your child’s behavior and implementing parental controls are not enough. Many young people know how to bypass these barriers!”
Instead, parents should engage their kids at a young age in dialogue about how to be safe online, and what to do when they feel threatened or uncomfortable.
McAfee also encourages discussion about guidelines for using the Internet, especially for school-related purposes, as virtual cheating is on the rise. In this always-connected world, kids have to look no further than their cell phone for the answers — no more scribbling math equations on your arm or writing book passages on the bottom of your shoe.
In fact, 15 percent of people ages 10 to 23 have cheated on a test using a mobile device; more than half of all teens and college students have intentionally looked up the answer to a test or assignment online.
“So what do we as parents do to help change this negative behavior?” Robert Siciliano, McAfee online security expert, wrote in a blog post. “We must stay in-the-know. Since your kids have grown up in an online world, they may be more online savvy than you, but you can’t give up.”
For a closer look at cyber bullying and virtual cheating, see McAfee’s infographics below. Also check out a compilation of suggestions for protecting teens from online threats.