Any great innovation brings us not only new benefits, but also new problems. Take cars as an example. They gave us the ability to travel incredibly fast and to carry cargo stunningly efficiently. At the same time, they kill thousands of people every year, convert our cities to concrete deserts, and exhaust tons of fumes which make it hard to breathe.
The story is similar with information technologies. Thanks to social networks today, we can find almost any person on the planet in a couple of clicks. This was impossible to imagine just ten years ago and now it has become quite common. On the flip side: Anyone on the Internet can find you with the same ease, and their purpose might not be friendly.
Cyberbullying is one of the unpleasant effects of hyper-socialization that the Internet as a whole – and social networks in particular – bring us. For those who are not familiar with this phenomenon: Cyberbullying is online communications with the intent to abuse or degrade. More specifically, to abuse or degrade kids.
Unfortunately, cyberbullying has became very common. Nearly half of children have been bullied online, every 1 in 4 has had it happen more than once.
“The Internet brings a great many benefits, but unfortunately it also allows certain people to unleash their destructive human traits, and cyberbullying has become a widespread problem today. For its victims, the psychological damage can be massive and long-lasting. There’s probably no purely technological answer, but we must talk about it to raise awareness of this issue and help young people and their parents safely make the most of the good things the Internet has to offer.” — Eugene Kaspersky said.
— Eugene Kaspersky (@e_kaspersky) March 3, 2015
Modern children and teenagers are deeply immersed in the virtual communications world, even deeper than adults. They take everything that happens to them online very seriously. In contrast to adults, youngsters have weaker psychological defence mechanisms, or none at all. Remember how many times in your life online conversations made you feel angry, abused, or upset. Imagine what your child feels when s/he faces something similar.
Adults can choose their behavior. Sometimes they want to relax and act thoughtlessly, like kids. But in general, they know how to act like adults. Kids always act like kids. And this is not bad; this is totally normal. Kids should be curious and experiment to find out what our world is about. The point is, sometimes this behaviour could be dangerous and parents must help their children to solve problems.
How to protect kids from #cyberbullying — Kaspersky Safe KidsTweet
A big part of the problem is that parents are rarely aware of cyberbullying. Despite the fact 2/3 of children and teenagers consider online bullying a real problem, only few of them will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse.
So what should adults do to protect their kids from psychological traumas due to cyberbullying? We have some advice:
- First, be patient. It will take time, like every serious issue, problems with cyberbullying can’t be solved in a couple of minutes.
- Of course, each person has a right to privacy. But this is not a reason to neglect your child’s online activity. Learn what your kids do in social networks. For a start, add them to your friends list in every social network in which you both have accounts. As few as 20% of parents do this — let’s make this figure better.
- Talk to your children about cyberbullying, tell them they should come to you if/when they face this problem. Explain that cyberbullying is a commonly encountered problem. It could help your kid realize there’s nothing wrong with him personally.
- Never use prohibition. Taking away a kid’s phone or disconnecting his devices from the Internet won’t help. Actually, such prohibitions are what your child is afraid of and why they wouldn’t tell you about cyberbullying to begin with.
- Talk to your kid about basic online security and privacy. Show him how to change privacy settings in social networks to prevent strangers from seeing his private data.
- To protect your child as efficiently as possible, use parental control applications. For instance, Kaspersky Lab has recently developed new app called Kaspersky Safe Kids. You can download this app for Windows, Mac, iOS or Android. It is available for US and UK users and currently is free of charge.