By Blair Campbell
When we began offering Safe and Secure Online in Canada last year, I lead a class of 120 students in which a young girl, following the cyberbullying video in the presentation, broke down crying and said, “If I report it, will it stop?” She struggled to regain her composure during the presentation.
A teacher afterward said that the school was aware of what she was dealing with and was the reason they brought Safe and Secure Online to their school. It was awful to watch this young girl – who couldn’t have been more than 13 – struggling so much when faced with a discussion about this painful experience, knowing some of the bullies were likely sitting in the room.
I am a certified information security professional and volunteer for the (ISC)² Foundation Safe and Secure Online program, which teaches kids to learn how to protect themselves online and how to become empathetic, responsible computer users. With nearly 90,000 certified members in 135 countries, (ISC)² is the world’s largest, not-for-profit information security professional membership body and global leader in information security education and certification. I volunteer because I am the parent of a 7-year old daughter, and I want to help her and other kids grow up with good instincts about leading a safe digital life and arm them with the tools they need.
According to Covenant Eyes:
- 26% of online boys report being bullied
- 38% of online girls report being bullied
- 41% of older girls (15-17) report being bullied, more than any other age or gender group
- Teens who spend more than 3 hours per school day on online social networks are
110% more likely to be a victim of cyber bullying
Here are some signs that your child is being cyberbullied:
- Unexpectedly stops using the computer
- Nervous or jumpy when an instant message, text message or email appears
- Uneasy about going to school or outside in general
- Angry, depressed or frustrated after using the computer
- Avoids discussions about what they are doing on the computer
- Becomes abnormally withdrawn from usual friends and family members
If your child is displaying these signs, here are some immediate things they can do to break the cycle (from the National Crime Prevention Council):
- Refuse to pass along cyber bullying messages
- Tell friends to stop cyber bullying
- Block communication with cyber bullies
- Report cyber bullying to a trusted adult
You may feel that you don’t have the tools or confidence to address cyberbullying with your kids, but it’s easier to tackle it when you realize that you can apply the same parental tools you use in other offline situations and that the issues are similar to what you faced growing up – the vehicles are just different.
The vectors are pervasive (smartphones, computers, email, websites, social media), but by using basic parenting instincts, you can empower your children to make good choices and protect themselves. As with any issue you run into as a parent, the most important thing you can do is to create an open line of communication and let your kids know they can trust you, confide in you and count on you to protect them, no matter what.
Blair Campbell is a privacy professional with 15 years of experience in information security who holds information security, audit and privacy certifications. He is also responsible for the introduction of (ISC)²’s Safe and Secure Online program in Canada. Since the launch of the program there in 2011, local volunteers have helped thousands of children learn to make positive decisions online.