Cyberbullying Protecting children in the COVID-19 era
As the time we spend in front of screens increases during the pandemic, so does the risk of cyberbullying.
Experts at the international cybersecurity company ESET explain what cyberbullying is and what you can do to protect your children.
It has been almost a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the planet a pandemic due to COVID-19. We humans do our best to comply with the guidelines of the Authorities and the rules of social distancing, in the hope that our world will return to some normalcy as soon as possible.
Entire families are now confined to the home, with most of their daily activities taking place through the screens of electronic devices. While it is difficult for everyone, one could say that the new reality is even more difficult for children, as they lose an essential part of their developmental process.
From the moment they wake up until they fall asleep, children spend their day in the digital world - watching their lessons online, interacting with their friends on the internet, "digesting" large amounts of content online and playing online games.
However, experts warn that spending so much time online is not only unhealthy but also dangerous, as it can expose them to various dangers, most notably cyberbullying.
How does cyberbullying manifest itself?
It is natural that after the pandemic and the rules of social distancing, the risk of cyberbullying has increased.
According to ESET experts, contrary to what most believe, cyberbullying is not limited to social media, but often occurs on various platforms and even manifests itself in many ways.
On social media, cyberbullying could seem innocent, especially when perpetrators disguise their intentions by creating memes with jokes known only to themselves, the potential victim, and other members of a common social group, such as classmates or members of a sports, social or ecclesiastical team and so on.
Alternatively, cyberbullying can take place secretly in private groups and chat rooms, with the material being deliberately leaked to the victim. All this makes it difficult to locate the incident. However, cyber bullies often do not think that they can be perceived, and so they will underestimate, humiliate and publicly attack their victims to make them more ashamed.
Another hotbed of cyberbullying where children spend endless hours is online games. While most attacks come in the form of insults, ridicule or swearing, they are not the only type of bullying that can be found in online arenas.
Often players will pick their victim and then try to make the time spent in the game as annoying as possible, either by killing their online characters over and over again (avatar) or by making a false report on the platform about the victim's behavior. causing him to be expelled from the game. All this makes the game unbearable for the victim.
How to prevent and stop online harassment
First of all, adults need to identify the warning signs and understand that something is wrong with the child. To protect themselves, children can drastically reduce the use of their devices, become ill-disposed or even delete their accounts and create new ones.
In addition, you do not have to wait for a cyberbullying incident to occur. Parents should discuss cyberbullying and other internet pitfalls with their children in advance. Children need to know that they can trust their parents and teachers and discuss their problems with them. A good protection measure is the use of parental control programs so that parents can control what their children do online, although some may consider it a violation of their children's privacy.
Children need to know that no one deserves to be bullied and that if they see someone being harassed, they should not remain silent, but should talk and report it to a responsible adult. It is also important to educate children on how to report an incident and how they can keep screenshots and evidence of cyberbullying that they have experienced first-hand or seen as being perpetrated against someone. elsewhere. In addition, they should be aware of the various tools provided by social media and gaming platforms for reporting such events.
ESET experts provide sample websites offering advice, contacts and support for victims of bullying.
Cybersmile (different countries)
Cyberbullying Research Center (United States)
National Bullying Helpline (United Kingdom)
Netsafe (New Zealand)
Cyber BAAP (India)
To learn more about the ways cyberbullying can affect children, and how technology can help, you can go to the platform Safer Kids Online.