Parents everywhere are all asking the same questions: What is cyberbullying? What can we do to protect our kids from this? While you may never be able to stop your children from being cyberbullied completely, you can certain do plenty to better protect them, and better educate them.
This will all tie in together with your overall cybersecurity plan, and how you will stay safe online in general. If you’re over the age of 18 the typical term used here is “cyberstalking,” and the advice in this article can apply to you just as readily as it will to someone under the age of 18.
What is cyberbullying?
To put it in the simplest terms possible, cyberbullying is:
The use of the Internet, cellphones, apps, or any other digital technology that posts or sends content with is hurtful, embarrassing, or intimidating.
Most often, the cyberbullying is happening at the same time as real bullying as the victims personally know their attackers from school, sports, or social activities. How you deal with cyberbullying will vary widely based on which type of cyberbullying your child is experiencing.
How does cyberbullying happen?
Just like bullying in real life, there are a few key factors that must be met before you can say your child is experiencing cyberbullying:
- Use of power: Every instance of bullying uses an imbalance of power in favor of the bully. In real life, it involves physical size, or large groups of peers. Online, cyberbullying can be connected to the size of one’s influence, or conducted within certain cyber-forums like online chat and social media.
- Intent: The cyberbully would have said or done something on purpose to hurt your child. It’s not cyberbullying when someone doesn’t agree with your child for some reason, and gives reasons why. It is cyberbullying when someone doesn’t agree with your child and they call them ‘stupid’ for it.
- Frequency: If it happens once it could very well be an isolated incident. Repetition of the act is when you can say it is cyberbullying for certain.
You can draw many parallels between bullying in real life and cyberbullying. As is often the case, the cyberbullying is being experienced both online and at school or public places.
What sort of ways are people cyberbullied?
- Creating a website which insults, embarrasses, or intimidates the victim. This can be fought by reporting it to the police and working with the hosting website to show that it’s cyberbullying.
- Stealing the passwords of the victim’s social media accounts and pretending to be them. How this can be protected against varies. First, never share a password with anyone. Second, use a strong VPN to protect your passwords in public from being hacked.
- Sending text messages, emails, or any other type of private message directly to the victim which contain bullying content. This is the hardest to defend against. Your best option is not to try to deal with it digitally at all. Talk to the parents of the bully and have their access to these tools restricted.
These three are the most common types of cyberbullying. While each has a solution, it can be difficult to really stop the problem until the actual person, or persons, responsible are dealt with. Reporting repeat cyberbullying to your local police so that they can open a file is an essential step that you have to take.
What is cyberbullying in terms of more digital and indirect means? Some examples would be:
- Using the notification and flagging tools of a social media site until the account of the victim is shut down.
- Creating a fake social media account that mimics the victim and posing as them in a demeaning way.
- Posting someone’s personal information online. This is usually accompanied by the bully urging people to use the contact details to harass the victim.
- Sending out text messages, emails, Whatsapp messages, etc in mass numbers to groups of peers.
- Stalking via location tracking. This is another instance where a VPN can protect your child by hiding their location as it hides the IP address.
These last five are the most difficult to deal with. They involve lots of deception and are difficult to track to the bully unless you have advanced hacking or tracking skills.
Your best defence against stopping them is by speaking directly with the hosts of the social media site, or the host of the website which has harmful material.
For advice on each of the major social media websites see:
- Facebook’s abuse reporting resources
- Twitter’s Abusive User Help Center
- Instagram’s Help Center
- Tumblr’s Community Guidelines
- YouTube’s Harassment and Cyberbullying page
Take screenshots of the bullying so that you have records in case the bully deletes them after. Having proof is an essential for making a real case. And we know that many bullies, and cyberbullies, are really cowards themselves who will delete their content the moment they think that they could get in trouble. Beat them at their game and keep screenshots as records!
To bring further emphasis on cyberbullying and teen suicide, watch this video on the ordeal of Amanda Todd. She’s a teenager who died via suicide due to cyberbullying in the area I was living at the time it happened:
The problem is real, and it has been going on for far too long.
Feature image via Speedkings / Shutterstock