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How to Protect Your Kids From Cyber Bullying

Posted by on Sep 13, 2013

Parents already have so much to contend with in the modern world when it comes to keeping their children safe. The Internet only complicates things with increased threats and the possibility of well-meaning kids unintentionally disclosing sensitive information like school names and personal addresses. As more and more kids plug in online to a wide range of social media, the rise of cyber bullying has only picked up steam. Parents and schools can proactively combat cyber bullying through strategic protocols, clearly articulated expectations, and strict penalties. And when it comes to protecting identities and photos, exclusive storage through a secure cloud service is essential.

Cyber-Bullying

Children of all ages have signed up for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, despite age restrictions. Through these forms of social media, kids can bypass parental knowledge and permission, while offering up their sensitive info to strangers online. A photo could reveal school sites, friends’ names, and home addresses to would-be predators, while cyber-bullies have used publically posted photos to harass, blackmail, and demean children. Geotags are particularly tricky in that they can reveal the exact location of children. Another problem posed by online social networking is the blanket of anonymity that cyber-bullies hide behind.

Through private profiles or fake identities, bullies can make outrageous claims and attacks without having to worry about retribution or consequences of any kind. Such anonymous bullying has even led to suicides, as in the case of a 16-year-old that recently hung herself in response to the cruelty she experienced online from strangers. The teen had posted a simple medical question on eczema, a common skin condition, to Ask.fm. Instead of getting helpful answers, which is what the website is purportedly intended for, she received a barrage of harassment and shaming. Parents should be cautious about letting their children post to public forums, especially if bullying has been an issue in the past. And schools should establish strict guidelines for posting to forums, staying away from public sites that attract cyber-bullies in favor of protected educational sites that don’t allow students to hide behind anonymous avatars.

How Cyber-Bullying Victims Feel

Cyber-bullying has become somewhat of a buzzword as of late, but just what does this broadly applied term mean? Russ Warner of Net Nanny recently offered a description of cyber-bullying to The Huffington Post:

  • Post rumors, lies, or “dirt” about the victim in a public forum
  • Share embarrassing pictures of the victim in a public forum or through email
  • Use texts, instant messages, emails, or photos to send mean or threatening messages
  • Upload a video to YouTube that embarrasses the victim
  • Create a fake Facebook account and pretend to be the victim, but act in a negative way
  • Pretend to be the victim in a chat room, and act in embarrassing ways
  • Share the victim’s personal information in a public forum

Fundamentally, cyber-bullying is traditional bullying carried into the digital world. Much of it revolves around trying to embarrass, shame or imitate the victims.

Safe Facebook Practices

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 52% of students have been affected by cyber-bullying. Over 80% of youth admit that there are hardly any consequences for online bullying and about a third of children younger than 13 have experienced some sort of cyber-bullying. Kelly Sheridan at Information Week offers some suggestions for schools that parents can also implement at home.

1. Filter objectionable content and keywords.

HTTPS sites can help schools and parents catch cyber-bullies in the act.

2. Deploy URL categorization and filtering software.

Don’t let kids access sites that are notorious playgrounds for bullies and predators.

3. Application control.

Install strict privacy applications and security measures. SpiderOak is one great secure cloud service that offers private storage.

4. Stay current on trends.

Children’s taste change just as fast as the Internet so make sure you don’t fall behind the trends.

5. Implement awareness campaigns.

Some schools have shown success in eradicated unwanted bullying behavior by meeting the challenge directly through awareness campaigns.

Once kids know what your expectations are regarding online behavior and cyber-bullying, it’s appropriate to roll out consequences for failure to adhere to the policies you set forth. Successful consequences typically revolve around online use, such as the suspension of accounts or loss of Internet privileges. According to psychologist Roxana Rudzik-Shaw, “Bullying is no longer confined to the school playground, home or workplace. It is all around us in this digital age, which often feels inescapable.” One of the best ways to escape the encompassing sense of cyber-bullying is through a secure cloud service.

Parental Supervision and Protection in the Cloud

For many parents and guardians, finding a truly protected third party cloud service can be a challenge as many “secure” services on the market have security gaps that leave their children’s data and photos wide open to theft, leaks, or hacking. One cloud storage and sync service that sets itself apart from the rest of the market is SpiderOak. This service provides users with fully private cloud storage and syncing, featuring all of the benefits of the cloud along with 100% data privacy.

SpiderOak protects sensitive data with 256-bit AES encryption so that files and passwords stay private. Authorized accounts and network devices can store and sync sensitive data with complete privacy, because this cloud service has absolutely “zero-knowledge” of user passwords or data. And all plaintext encryption keys are exclusively stored on approved devices because SpiderOak never hosts any plaintext data. SpiderOak’s cross-platform private cloud services are available for users on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, along with Android and iOS mobile devices, allowing for full flexibility and mobile security.

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