Anindita Mishra, McAfee’s Cybermum in India, writes about how to make sure that children are safe wherever they go, in the real or virtual world. 

Recently, we have read a lot about famous personalities being harassed for their online posts or photos. Due to the anonymity and sense of security offered by the internet, not just celebs but even ordinary people like you and I could be subjected to cyberbullying, or its infamous forms- trolling, shaming, stalking, defaming and abusing. So, is cyberbullying any different from the bullying you face in everyday life? Not really; it’s just an extension of mean behaviour into the digital world. The same digital world that offers users a chance to connect, voice opinions and participate in good causes is also being misused by a few to harass others and victims could suffer from emotional disturbances or in extreme cases, even fatalities.

Read other stories in #TryTrollHer here

Your kids might have mentioned in passing how a celeb they know, or a friend of theirs, have been trolled online for the content they shared. Children do love their little jokes and share posts of friends with funny captions or comments. But, if such posts go viral then they are in the public domain and others may join the fray. This could lead to the victims being ridiculed by both friends and strangers. There are platforms like ask.fm and Sarahah that encourage users to share honest opinions, which could turn out to be quite a troubling experience. Then there is this matter of peer pressure that lead even smart teens to fall prey to cyberbullying. A recent example of this is The Blue Whale Challenge that led children to respond to bullying tactics to complete dangerous tasks.

Consider this:

  • According to the McAfee 2017 study “New Family Dynamics in a Connected World,” 49%of Indian parents have shown concerns about their child potentially interacting with a social predator or cybercriminal online.
  • The 2015 McAfee Teen Tween Technology report states that 43% of the children active on social media claim to have witnessed cruel behaviour on social networks. Almost one out of four (22%) of those active on social media claim to have been the victim of cyberbullying themselves

This underlines the importance of parents’ role in the digital journey of their children. But are parents aware of cyberbullying? The good news is yes, they are, and most of those surveyed said they have discussed this issue with their children and follow them on their social media networks. Children, especially teens, are quite vulnerable and prone to peer influence. They need guidance on handling cyberbullying and parental support is paramount. A confident child will usually not seek attention or approval from strangers online. As your child’s go-to person, you should also aim to be a hands-on digital parent and a friend equipping them to handle adverse situations.

I believe it’s high time we take a serious look and teach our kids safe online habits and say no to cyberbullying.

Let’s enable our kids to overcome cyberbullies using these tips to create a safer and inclusive online environment:

  1. Choose your friends with care. It’s easier for rude people and strangers to bully you. Be wary about accepting requests from strangers. Never give out your cell phone number or email address, and never reveal passwords even to close friends.
  2. Mind what you share. What you say and how you say it, makes a difference. Also, keep personal information private. By not using privacy settings, your profile is open to anyone and everyone, which increases the chances of being bullied or personal photos being downloaded and manipulated.
  3. Be positive and don’t react.Don’t lose your calm and react, because this what cyberbullies want. You should only take action after careful deliberations. Reach out to your parents, teachers and close peers at the first sign of bullying or conflict online.
  4. Ignore, block or unfriend those who provoke or humiliate you. Block and report abusers by clicking on the ‘report abuse’ icon. If the issue persists, you can always take help from your parents in resolving the same.

Quick tips for parents to help them be on the top of things

Talk to your kids, frequently and frankly. This is THE most important thing to do to help you stay aware of what’s happening in your child’s virtual life and for them to feel free to confide in you. You can use role-playing with real life situations to help kids learn how to respond to online bullies.

Monitor and mentor kids until they are mature enough to handle online issues on their own.

Ensure you use parental control features as an excellent way to monitor, guide and keep them safe online.

Teach your child the essential qualities of good values and manners. In a world that is increasingly becoming a global village, a child has to learn to be strong. So, give your child rules laced with lots of love and topped with a ladle full of dignity. Help your child learn to say no to cyberbullying, whether directed against them or others.

Anindita Mishra is McAfee’s Cybermum in India. A Pune-based freelance writer, teacher and mother of two, Anindita evangelises online safety for kids, parents & the family. 

 

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