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Cyber Bullying

Protecting your children from online bullies

Unfortunately, technological advancements that solve problems sometimes seem to create new ones as a result. As an example, take the Internet and the use of email, instant messaging, social-networking websites, and electronic bulletin boards. These are great tools for disseminating information and enhancing telecommunication. However, these great tools can also be abused with spam and the spreading of viruses that can take over your PC, as well as lies and hateful messages, which can take over someone’s life, especially if that someone is a young student.

Nowadays, when schoolchildren leave campus, they don’t necessarily leave their classmates and their conflicts behind. By using computers, PDAs and mobiles phones, students can be in touch with each other at all times and use all this technology to pester, bully, and harm others. Bullying online is not any different to bullying in the playground and can be just as traumatic for a child. It is essential to give your children the knowledge and confidence to deal with bullying.

Cyber bullying can involve IM chat, text messages, email, websites, viruses and more. Bullies may try and steal passwords or distribute fake photographs, and can even use other people to inadvertently propagate the harassment.

What can I do?

Many of the same techniques you would employ with your child to deal with physical bullies can be used for cyber bullying, but there are fundamental differences. Encourage your children to trust you and come to you if they are being bullied, and provide support in how they use the relevant media.

Keep copies of all digital media used for bullying. You can provide them to your school’s guidance officer, or if the bullying escalates to threats of physical harm, consider whether to provide them to your local police.

Teach your children to remain calm when online if they are bullied. Tell them not to respond but instead block the bully from contact or turn their phone off for a while, and then tell someone.

For more information on cyber bullying, you can check out the website http://www.kidscape.org.uk/childrenteens/cyberbullying.shtml

Are there any tools to help?

While no security software company has a product that can eliminate cyber bullying from your children’s lives, Sky have teamed up with McAfee who provide parents with some tools that mitigate the experience for their children. McAfee Internet Security Suite for Sky Broadband customers comes with Parental Controls feature that – if employed properly – helps limit the access your children might have to objectionable material whenever they go online. Giving you peace of mind is McAfee’s ultimate goal. Here are some suggestions for helping with cyber bullying: (1) limit the child’s time online; (2) block access to inappropriate websites; (3) use keyword filtering; and (4) use image analysis filtering.

One thing that concerns almost all parents is the amount of time children spend online. The less time online, the less time to be bullied or get caught up in cyber-social-warfare. If you want to limit the amount of time your child spends online, you can use the Internet Time Limits option within the Parental Controls feature of McAfee Internet Security Suite. Here you are able to block out times of the day in which your child can’t use the Internet.

In addition to limiting the amount of time your children spend online, you can also limit the websites they visit by using the Block Web Sites option, where you simply type in the website addresses (also known as URLs). Or alternatively, simply list the sites that are safe for your children to visit by using the Allowed Web Sites option.

Parents can also use the Keywords and Image Analysis options to filter and prevent unwanted language, rude discourse, or inappropriate photos from being displayed to children when they browse the Web.

Of course, these tools have a limited scope regarding the prevention of cyber bullying. Nothing can take the place of an attentive and responsive parent when a child is bullied, either online or offline. Also, be sure that your child is not victimising other children by bullying them, the same way they are being bullied.

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