There is a school of thought that believes that photos of your Children should not be on social media. While some mothers treat Facebook and Instagram like their own photo albums with a million photos of their kids, some are extremely protective of their children’s security and rarely ever post a picture. Some mothers, including celebrities, do all they can to protect their children from the cameras of the paparazzi, and then there are some mothers, including celebrities, who open social media accounts for their children.
In a recent report, the Office of the eSafety Commissioner of Australia noted that cyber-bullying against children is on the rise, with reports of name-calling, violent threats, and even revenge porn surging 63 per cent this year. It urged parents to be ‘to be more vigilant, better educated, and pay greater attention to their children’s behaviour to stem the problem.’ It may not feel like this matters – who cares what’s happening in Australia, right? But what if we told you that even in 2015, India ranked 3rd in the world in cyberbullying? What if we told you that 77% of school children in India reported being a victim of online or offline bullying compared to 50% in the UK and 65% in France? What if there is a chance your child is one of them?
Blue Whale was a wake-up call for us because children died. But then what about those children who are being subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on a daily basis? There was a report recently about how a pre-teen girl posted very provocative photos of herself online for ‘likes’ because none of her friends were liking her regular photos. Did you know withdrawing ‘likes’ is an indirect form of bullying? Did you know what the other forms are? Tagging inappropriate pictures, spreading rumours, insulting comments and filming and posting videos online – all this can be a form of cyberbullying. Malicious tags, cruel comments and unwanted pictures, once uploaded, can never be completely erased from the web and run the danger of being resurrected any time.
But why is this happening? Cyber safety expert and educator Leonie Smith said rising online bullying was being fuelled by young children being given smartphones and social media accounts before they were mature enough to use them sensibly. “More children are getting access to technology that parents aren’t able to supervise easily,” Ms. Smith said.
Ms. Smith said both social networks offered private messaging that was often used by bullies, and could be used to send “disappearing” abusive messages that were hard to trace. Plus, there is the knowledge that the internet lets you be anonymous. The apparent anonymity of the Internet turns even the meek into bullies. By its very nature, Internet has created opportunities for deviant behaviour. With an increase in the number of social networking sites, tweens and teens are basing much of their self-esteem on their online personas. As many as 89% of the tweens and teens polled in an Intel Security Survey felt that “likes” and “favourites” on their profiles were very important for their self image. And, 78% felt that Facebook was the platform most likely to be used for open criticism and bullying, followed by Twitter (7%).
But how can this be contained? Leonie Smith says, “Parents need to concentrate on their children’s behaviour and supervising them when they get home.” But more than, there is a need to educate yourselves about cyberbullying. Only then can you educate your child. In an Intel Security survey, 57% of children said they would not know what to do if they were harassed or bullied online. Are you sure you want to hand a smartphone to a child who is not capable of handling harassment? Think!
And meanwhile, these tips from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner of Australia for keeping your children safe from cyberbullying are extremely relevant for India too. Take a look!
1. Password security. Teach your kids that passwords are like the keys to your house and no matter how much they might trust a particular friend — never share them.
2. Start the conversation early. Talk as early as possible to your children about cyberbullying and cyber safety. Educate yourself first about what the issues are and then have that conversation with your child even before they start interacting online so they know what’s coming.
3. Bring it out in the open. When your kids online make sure they are interacting online in a place outside of their bedroom. That way you can have greater access to see what is going on.
4. Respect. Educate your kids that communicating online is no different to communicating in the “real world” and they should be aware that there is a “real” person on the other end of their communication so treat them how they would if they were standing in the same room.
5. Be clued in. Be aware of your child’s emotional state and any abnormal behaviour. If their mood has suddenly changed and they are acting out of the ordinary it might be an indicator that something is going on. Keep in close contact with their school and other support services to keep a dialogue on how they are going.
Feature image: Millennium India Education Foundation