What Is Cyberbullying? Defining A Modern Problem.

What Is Cyberbullying? Defining A Modern Problem.

Keeping kids safe from bullying has never been harder for parents, teachers, and families. If the physical world weren’t enough for us to keep up with, we’re now learning more every day about the importance of keeping our eyes and ears open for cyberbullying across our children’s email, smart phone, social media, and even school-related sites. It’s not just the Internet that’s talking about it — TV news shows, radio personalities, and magazines are increasingly talking about cyberbullying and how it affects everyone, especially kids. But what is it exactly, and what can be done to help prevent the bullying in the first place?

There are many definitions of cyberbullying out there to choose from, but they all break down to something like this:

Cyberbullying Definition
Cyberbullying is any form of intentional harassment that takes place online or by using electronic devices such as smartphones, personal computers, iPods, tablets, and other hand-held devices like the Kindle. It can happen through text messages, social media posts, online chat (IM‘s, or instant messaging), and on websites. (A famous example being Internet forums)

Nowadays, as many as 1 in 3 children say they’ve been cyberbullied (Source), and half of the kids who are cyberbullied never tell their parents (Source). It may come to some people as a surprise that girls are more likely to be an online bully than boys, (Source) but at the end of the day and regardless of whether it’s a boy or girl doing it — it’s wrong, it’s harmful, and it’s a growing problem among school-age children.

So what can parents, teachers, and other friends and family do to help combat the situation? Now that we have it defined, we can focus on the areas it happens. Keeping a watchful eye on Internet activity, games played on iPods and Kindles, who your kids are texting (and what they’re saying!), and in general keeping tabs on their electronic life is a fantastic first line of defense against cyberbullies. Just remember that it’s not about snooping or invading privacy. It’s about ensuring the health and well-being of your children and teaching them to use caution when interacting with anyone online.

Some of what cyberbullies pick up on are things that we put out there in the first place, so there are some things everyone (kids, parents… seriously, anyone at all) can do to help prevent bullying before it happens.

  • No Personally Identifiable Information:

    Be cautious about filling out online surveys, posting the answers to questionnaires on Facebook, or making any information available online or in a text that can give away your identity. Last names, home addresses, phone numbers, and even plans to go somewhere at a future time or day are all fodder for those who would try to bully.

  • Say No To Geo-Location:

    While geo-location tools are great for finding out where your family members are or getting yourself un-lost on a road trip, when used on social media networks and across other publicly viewable profiles it gets predators of all types that much closer to your and your kids. Resist the urge to add your location(s) to tweets and posts.

  • Speak Out Against Bullying:

    If you or your family see cyberbullying, regardless of how small or insignificant it may seem, say something. Too many children don’t speak up for themselves, and the damages to self-esteem can lead a child to depression, feeling nervous or scared, and in some well-publicized cases to suicide. Take bullying seriously and nip it in the bud as soon as you see it.

  • Stranger Danger:

    Only “friend” people online who you actually know. Close friends, family, etc. It’s so easy to let the wrong person into your online life, and once they’re in, it’s not always easy to get them out. Keeping a close eye on who you allow to follow you or see your private posts (such as the Friends Of Friends option on Facebook) can help reduce the chances of a bully smearing your profile with their vitriol.

  • Be Smart About What You Publish:

    Some things just aren’t meant to be shared online. Certain posts, and especially those with inappropriate material attached, can get you into hot water… fast. My rule of thumb is that I won’t post anything I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have my grandma show to all of her friends. Your mileage may vary with that one, but whatever you need to help curb your desire to post something embarrassing, use it!

If your child or someone you know does become the victim of a cyberbully, resist the temptation to delete the offending images, text, etc. The best thing to do is to take a screenshot of the material and use it against the bully by alerting the appropriate authorities, whether that’s the police, school staff, or the bully’s parents. For something minor or an isolated incident, a lesser solution may be appropriate, but if there are any serious threats of harm, do not hesitate contacting your local law enforcement. If you need more ideas about what to do, we’ve got a whole blog post on how to deal with a cyberbully.

Additional Resources:

Image courtesy of mdgovpics

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.

Are You Raising a Cyberbully?


Cyberbullies Can Strike Anywhere
There’s Digital Media
Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you have a preadolescent, moody, hormonal kid, also known as a teenager, pre-teen, or “tween”, you should be aware of cyberbullying. In our digital, mobile, and social world, cyberbullying is a very real issue and a concern for parents.  Cyberbullying is much more than just a modern version of the good-old-fashioned schoolyard bullying.  In general, “cyberbullying” is the term used to describe online activities between minors that can range anywhere from text messages of a teasing nature, to digital harassment, and even threats of physical harm.  Usually it’s deliberate and repeated behavior with the intent of causing physical, psychological, or emotional harm to the victim by way of computers and cell phones.

“Egads!” One more thing for parents to worry about! As if there aren’t already plenty of social minefields that parents need to help Junior traverse during his teenage-angst years, now it’s necessary to know how to recognize when he may be the victim of a digital bully?

Indeed! And it’s precisely that picture parents typically associate with cyberbullying — protecting their little angel from the harm of online meanies.  Most parents are working hard to raise a “good” kid, who’s kind and considerate of others. But all kids, even good ones, make mistakes and bad choices. They need our guidance. It’s important for parents to realize that a child is just as likely to be the cyberbully as they are to be the victim of one. Parents need to be aware of this possibility, even as heartbreaking and devastating as it could be to learn that your kid is the one behaving badly. Sometimes the child has no clue their actions could be classified as cyberbullying. Kids can also switch between roles, from victim to bully and back again, as part of a digital exchange.  Whatever the case, parents need to address the issue head-on and not wait for it to just go away.

It’s anyone’s guess why your offspring might get caught up in the role of the cyberbully. Surely contributing factors are the ubiquitous and oh-so-easy-to-use digital toys of today, which make for an abundance of opportunity. Because communications are merely typed online and not face-to-face, kids can feel less encumbered, making them much more likely to write shocking or mean things they wouldn’t ordinarily say in person. The writer feels a sense of detachment and anonymity, making the comments seem not so personal.

But why would any kid, especially your child, bully another online, regardless of ease and opportunity? The reasons are many and varied:

  • Attention – Looking for laughs , trying to be funny or look “cool.” Attempting to elicit some sort of reaction from the intended target or onlookers.
  • Power-Hungry – Harassing others is a cheap and easy way for a kid to boost their ego.
  • Mob Mentality – It’s easy to pile on or be a “me too” when you can get lost in the crowd. It’s safer, especially if a kid knows the behavior is questionable in first place.
  • Mean Girls – It’s a way for kids to establish or improve their social standing in a group or clique. Reinforces the cyberbully’s place in social circles.
  • Entertainment – It could be as simple as boredom. Too much time on their hands, not enough to do, and too many tech toys available to them.
  • Revenge, Frustration, or Anger – It can start as “vigilante justice” defending themselves from bullies or standing up for others.
  • Vicarious Tough Guy – It’s an easy way to be the tough guy or gal.
  • Accident – Let’s face it, a kid could mistakenly send a message to the wrong recipient or not think something through before they sent it.

So what are the signs that a child might be doing the cyberbullying?

  •  Uses several online accounts or ones that are not their own.
  • Avoids talking about their online activities or what they’re doing on the computer.
  • Quickly switches screens, minimizes windows, or closes programs when someone approaches or walks by.
  • Appears to always want to hide their cell phone or computer from you.
  • Uses the computer excessively or late at night.
  • Becomes angry, upset, or irritated when they’re denied use of a computer, cell phone, or mobile device.
  • Displays increased levels of aggression.
  • Is unwilling to accept responsibility for their behavior.
  • Laughs excessively while using the computer or other electronic devices.

What’s a parent to do if and when they discover their child is a cyberbully?  Do you use the old potty training for dogs technique of rubbing their nose in it by cyberbullying your own child? Although that might teach them empathy for the cyberbully victim, it’s probably not the most constructive method. Besides, if two wrongs ever do make a right, this probably isn’t the time. Try the following:

  • Talk to your kids about the power of words and how damaging and hurtful they can truly be.
  • Talk to your child firmly about his or her actions and explain the negative impact it has on others.
  • Force your child to really reflect on what they did, why they did it, giving serious thought to what the actual impact was on their victim.
  • Try to find out if they themselves have ever been bullied.
  • Require your child to do research on cyberbullying and the long-term damage and trauma it can cause people.
  • Consider restricting your child’s cell phone and Internet privileges until behavior improves and then monitor their activities closely. Remind your child that the use of cell phones and computers is a privilege.
  • Consulting with your child’s teachers, guidance counselors, and other school officials could help you understand why your kid would bully another.
  • If your child has trouble managing anger, talk to a therapist about helping them handle strong feelings in a constructive manner.
  • Also consider seeking professional counseling to help your child combat the urge to harm or harass others.
  • A final next step could be to consider reparations, which take into account the victim and possibly their family. (Keep in mind that a victim of bullying may not be able to readily accept an apology right away.  The victim might question the sincerity of the apology or may suspect an ulterior motive. Sometimes the apology is best made several months after the incident.)

The time to address cyberbullying with your kids is before it occurs. Talk to them about what cyberbullying actually is and what forms it can take. Give examples and explain to them that joking around and teasing might seem like good clean fun, but it can hurt people’s feelings and lead to serious consequences. Also, don’t rely on the school system to educate or intervene when it comes to cyberbullying. There is limited guidance available about whether schools should intervene, or whether they legally can, in bullying situations that occur off-campus, outside of school hours, and/or that involve digital or electronic communications.  Further complicating matters, cyberbullying occurs most often on weekends, when kids have more time and opportunity to be online.

Bullying in any form is unacceptable. It can have severe and long-lasting consequences. When one kid bullies another, it can be devastating.  When dozens of kids bully another, the emotional damage can last a lifetime. The more involved you are as a parent, the greater your ability will be to recognize cyberbullying and put a stop to it. Tech-savvy parents can model good online behavior and help their kids understand the benefits and the dangers of life online in the digital world.

Related Articles:

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.

Online Safety Tips For Parents Of School-Age Children

Online Safety Tips For Parents Of School-Age Children

When I was a kid, I could ride my bike all over our neighborhood and play outside all day long without seeing or talking to my parents. These days, most parents keep a much closer eye on their kids due to the rise of unsavory characters harming kids. The same thing goes for the Internet; in 1993 most people were still discovering what the “web” was and there wasn’t much cause for concern. But today, the topic of online safety is everywhere and the evening news stories about online predators have most parents keeping a tight rein on what their kids do and see online.

And no wonder. According to the FBI, 1 in 3 kids has been exposed to unwanted sexual material, 1 in 7 have received unwanted sexual solicitations, and 1 in 11 children have been bullied online. (Source) With those kinds of numbers, it’s imperative that we help protect our children at every possible level. A daunting task, to be sure, but one which is just as important as seat belts in cars and wearing bike helmets.

I’d be lying if I said that we, as parents, could protect our children from every conceivable manner of predatory interaction. But the more we know, the more we can do, and action is the key to preventing our kids from being exposed to the wrong kind of people and pages on the Internet. To help you out, we’ve rounded up a handful of ideas that will keep your kids safety and security at the forefront of any visit they make to the web.

  • Don’t give out personal information — It’s very easy to take a few pieces of information and determine where someone lives, works, or goes to learn. Remind your children that any personally identifiable information like their last name, address, email, phone number, or school name are things they should keep to themselves. Putting any of that information online puts them at risk for predators.
  • Sending pictures and videos are by permission only — Stress to your kids that sending pictures or videos of themselves to anyone online, even friends and family, should only be done with your permission. It’s not just online predators who are a problem. Cyber-bullies often pose as a friend at first to gain their victims trust, then use what they find against them.
  • Let your kids know it’s OK to come to you — If your child feels uncomfortable with something he or she finds online, let them know it’s OK for them to talk to you about it. Pictures, video, text… there are all sorts of things that could make your kids feel uneasy.
  • Nix any meetup plans — One of the biggest worries we have as parents is an abducted child. Talk openly and honestly to your children about the dangers of meeting a “friend” they met on the Internet in the real world.
  • It’s OK to not chat back — If your child receives an email, a text, and instant message, or any other communication from someone they don’t know, make sure he or she understands that they do not have to answer back. It’s not rude; it’s a safety issue. This should also extend to immediately stopping a conversation as soon as they feel uncomfortable.

This blog post isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of things you can do to help keep your kids safe on the Internet. Rather, it’s a starting point for action and discussion. The best things you can teach your child about staying safe online is to be aware of the dangers, keep sensitive data secure, and provide a safe haven for them to talk you about what they find online.

Many great websites and articles are posted online regarding Internet safety for parents, kids, teachers, and beyond. Here are some additional resources to help you keep your kids protected:

We’d love to hear more from you on how you help keep your kids safe online. What tips do you have for kids and parents who are looking to stay safe? Leave your comments below to share your thoughts.

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.

Online Safety for Kids

Online Safety for Kids

It’s getting close to the middle of the school year for most kids, and by now they’re probably pretty comfortable with the swing of things. As such, you’re probably finding your kids on the home computer surfing the Internet, “studying” online (haha), and chatting with their friends the web. As a parent and a tech geek, I’m all for kids learning and playing online. But as the school year progresses, most kids become lax in their safety consciousness when online.

It’s always a good idea to remind your kids about the importance of online safety, but here are three things you should make sure to keep on top of all year long:

  • Don’t give out personally identifiable information:

    First names are probably fine, but a last name should always be kept under wraps from anyone your kids interact with online. Other things to keep quite about are the locations of their home and school, frequent hangout spots, and after-school schedules. The last thing you want is some creepy stranger taking a 3 hour drive to visit your kid at little league!

  • Keep kids social networking profiles private:

    Places like Facebook allow kids (and adults) to post anything they want at any time they want, with little to no repercussions. Make sure that your kids don’t accidentally invite a web perv into their online life with an open and public profile.

  • Let an adult know about cyberbullying:

    Cyberbullying is no joke, and it’s happening more and more. Be sure to keep an open and honest dialog with your kids about online harassment, whether it’s about them, their friends, or someone they know at school. No child should have to live in fear or shame because of a cyberbully.

If you keep those three things alive and well during the entire year, your kids will have a much better, and safer, time on the Internet.

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.

How to Deal with a CyberBully.

How to Deal with a CyberBully.

If you’re a parent, you’ve undoubtedly heard about cyberbullying in the media. If you’re a student, there’s a good chance you’ve not only heard about it, you may have been the victim of a cyberbully, or maybe one of your friends has been the target of an attack. The fact is, with the explosive growth the Internet has had since the early 1990’s, cyberbullying has become more and more prevalent and no one seems to be immune.

Just like bullies in the real world, cyberbullies get pleasure from tormenting their victims and the feeling of power from doing it. The reasons for their actions vary, but the end result is almost always the same for the victim: pain, hurt, revulsion, broken confidence, and in the worst cases, death. There’s no guarantee that you, a friend, or a loved one won’t be bullied online, but there are steps that you can take to help lessen their effect and maybe even get them to stop altogether.

Keeping in mind that every case is different, here are some tips that parents, students, and anyone else who may be dealing with a bully can use to help diffuse the situation. With any luck the days of dealing with threatening and/or harassing people will be short lived.

  • Block any cyberbully you meet online:

    If they can’t contact you, it’s much harder to annoy you. Most services and/or social networking websites have a way to block another user, and if you or someone you know is being bothered, don’t be afraid of blocking them.

  • Remember that cyberbullying is a big deal:

    It’s never OK for anyone to harass you, belittle you, or threaten to harm you. If you’re dealing with a bully, make sure to tell a trusted person like a parent, guardian, or teacher. The quicker a responsible adult knows about the situation, the quicker it can be resolved.

  • Don’t delete any threatening or harassing messages:

    In many cases bullying comes down to a “he said/she said” scenario. If you’ve been bullied and you have hard evidence, keep it to prove your case. Without it, you’ll have a hard time convincing anyone else otherwise.

  • Don’t pass along cyberbullying messages:

    If a friend or relative asks you to forward anything harassing to someone else, or if they ask you to join in harassing someone, just say no. Don’t be a part of the problem, be part of the solution.

  • Don’t open or read messages from a cyberbully:

    It may be hard to do, but if someone continually sends you emails, instant messages, or phone calls that threaten or harass you, don’t respond. Most bullies thrive on your reaction, and not letting them get to you lessens the likelihood that they’ll continue.

  • Report cyberbullying to a trusted adult:

    Friends, parents, teachers, law enforcement officials… any of these people can help you if you’re being cyberbullied. And if you’re threatened with physical harm, inform the local police immediately.

Keeping safe from cyberbullies is often a matter of removing their ability to bother you and/or just ignoring them. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to get other people involved. Don’t be a victim, stand up for your rights, and be safe!

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.

10 Twitter Safety Tips.

10 Twitter Safety Tips.

If you’re looking for a site that really puts the “social” in social media then look no further than Twitter. In our experience the majority of people on Twitter are super friendly, but every now and again you’ll run into a creep who feels it’s his or her mission in life to make you miserable, whether it’s harassing your or sending you spam. It’s usually enough to block unwanted Twitter followers, but some people step over a line and you might need to do more than just block them from your account.

We’ve come up with a list of 10 Twitter safety tips to help you avoid the less-than-scrupulous people and navigate around some of the other hassles that come with social media.

  • Keep personal info personal.

    Don’t share any personal information like telephone, email address, the location of your home, etc. The more you give out, the more likely you’ll find yourself with a cyberstalker, and we feel that this is an especially important Twitter safety tip. Also, be careful with any geolocation service you use (even Twitter’s own), and never tweet your location from home!

  • Careful who you follow.

    It’s not necessary to follow everyone who follows you. First off it’ll start to clog up your Twitter feed when you have hundreds or thousands of followers, but secondly you’ll open the door to people who are looking for an easy mark instead of a new friend. Follow, and be followed, with caution.

  • Beware of phishing.

    Phishing attacks make their rounds through DMs (or “Direct Messages”) all the time. Before you respond to a DM, make sure it’s legit.

  • Only use trusted Twitter apps.

    Limit which Twitter applications you use, and try to only use those which use the OAuth method of connecting to Twitter. And before you give a Twitter application a thumbs up to connect to your account, do some quick research and make sure that any app you use is reputable.

  • Strong password, secure account.

    Change your password regularly and use a strong password. This is probably the easiest, as well as one of the most effective, Twitter safety tips we can give.

  • What did you click on?

    Shortened URLs are great for keeping in the 140 characters, but that makes it harder to tell where the link takes you. Some Twitter clients, like TweetDeck, allow you to preview the destination URL before you click through. There are also several Firefox addons that will reveal the final destination of a shortened URL. And if worse comes to worse, you can always add a “+” to the end of any bit.ly URL to see its information page.

  • Don’t believe everything you read.

    Mama always said there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and it goes doubly so on Twitter and other social media sites. Scammers and spammers abound, and they’d love to get their hooks on you, so be wary of any offers, contests, or messages that promise the world.

  • Parental guidance suggested.

    Parents need to educate themselves about Twitter and pass that knowledge to their children. We recommend that parents set limits on when their children can use Twitter, as well as appropriate ages to use social media without parental supervision.

  • Report threats and cyberbullying.

    If you receive a threatening message on Twitter, contact your local law enforcement agencies as well as Twitter support. Cyberbullying and harassment is a growing problem online, and there’s no good reason to stand for it.

  • Don’t go it alone.

    A tweetup is a great way to meet local tweeps, but do it smart. Never arrange to meet someone alone in real life through Twitter. Always go with a friend, and in a public place.

Using these Twitter safety tips should help keep you less likely to be bothered with the down side of social media and enjoy the great things that Twitter has to offer.

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.