Just because cyberbullying takes place in virtual spaces doesn’t make it any less damaging than in-person scuffles. The phenomenon has been linked to mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and even cases of suicidal thoughts or actions. Data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) suggests that about 20% of children between the ages of 10 and 15 have experienced some form of online bullying.
Cyberbullying can encompass a huge range of activities, but the general definition is online behaviour that hurts another, either physically or emotionally. It might be a series of derogatory comments on your teenager’s TikTok or in their Twitter direct messages. It might be an online rumor that culminates in a real-world confrontation. For kids engaging in online gaming, bullies can get even more intense, particularly in real-time, in-game chats.
Cyberbullying is complex and omnipresent, but there are steps you can take as a parent to protect your kids. Certain cybersecurity software, including Bitdefender’s Family Pack, include features that can deter cyberbullies and help safeguard your family’s data.
Here are a few things to know about helping your child stay safe online.
1. Talk to them about what online bullying looks like
Some kids may not understand that a hurtful comment on social media or video trashing a fellow student is a form of cyberbullying. Even when they do understand what cyberbullying entails, few kids actually report specific instances of it to adults. One study found that just one in ten teenagers reports if they’ve been a victim of cyberbullying.
Talking to your kids about appropriate online behaviour not only helps them identify when another child or online user is acting inappropriately, but it also enlightens them about the behaviour they should strive for — and avoid — when interacting with peers, classmates, and strangers.
Discuss the nuances of cyberbullying with your kids. For example: Sending repeated messages on multiple platforms to a classmate you’ve got a crush on may seem flattering, but it may be interpreted as aggressive. Make sure your children understand that it’s important to tell an adult if they or one of their friends is being cyberbullied.
2. Take advantage of parental controls
If your kids are actively experiencing cyberbullying, you can use parental controls settings to block the numbers or accounts of harmful users. Check out the features and measures you can take to protect your kids’ privacy and identities online — especially on the social media sites your kids use daily. Be sure to turn off location services on any apps or platforms that might be vulnerable to break-in by bad actors.
Investing in a strong cybersecurity platform for the whole family also ensures that bullies have a much harder time gaining access to sensitive data like passwords, user logins, and other information that might be used to carry on a campaign of harassment.
3. Explain the importance of digital privacy to kids and teens
Be sure your kids understand how important it is to keep things like passwords private — and start this conversation at a young age. Let kids know that sharing their password with friends is like handing them a copy of your family’s house keys. Be sure your kids limit the material they post online, and emphasize just how important it is to report any copycat social media accounts they find.
Finally, make sure your teenagers understand that digital content is not as ephemeral as it might seem — what’s posted online stays online. Private electronic messages are made public every day. Let them know that if they’d be embarrassed or ashamed if a message or image they sent was broadcast publicly, they probably shouldn’t be sending it in the first place.
Bitdefender offers a suite of products to keep your entire family safe. Learn more about their offerings and services.