Understanding cyber bullying and learning how to prevent it has become critical. Not only are women stalked online, but children are taking their own lives because of cyber abuse. Online harassment is only limited to the bully’s imagination, determination and technological skills. Although there is no way to be completely shielded from negativity online, there are steps and precautions you can take to protect yourself and your children.
1. Educate Yourself
It is important to understand exactly what cyber bullying is in order to prevent it. Cyber bullying is when someone is tormenting, threatening, harassing, humiliating or embarrassing another person using interactive electronic devices. Cyber bullies can use direct attacks or attacks by proxy. Direct attacks are when bullies do the dirty work themselves. Attacks by proxy are when bullies enlist the help of others for their “cyber war”. Cyber bullying goes beyond a few rude posts on Facebook or a couple of nasty emails. Here are a few examples of what can happen:
Cyber bully attacks:
* Blasting the victim with threatening or harassing emails, IMs and texts
* Stalking victims in chat rooms, web sites, Facebook, etc.
* Building fake profiles to pose as the victim
* Doing demeaning polls, such as “ugliest” or “fattest” girl at Hometown Middle School
* Posting personal information on dangerous websites, such as posting a child’s real name, address and contact information on a pedophile site
* Creating a “hate site” against the victim
* Pretending to be someone the victim trusts to get personal information they can then forward, post or share with others
* Blasting a blog, YouTube channel or website with negative comments
* Hacking the victims computer, email or other accounts
* Taking embarrassing, compromising or edited sexual photos of the victim then posting them online
* Signing the victim up for porn sites or posting sexually explicit ads on Craigslist
2. Protect Your Personal Information
Be diligent about protecting yourself online. A cyber stalker could easily turn into a real life stalker with a few clicks of the mouse. (Or, if you’re Marc Maron you can do the same thing to track down an internet troll.) Use privacy settings on social media and don’t feel the need to share everything online. If you own a blog or website, use the privacy protect feature.
Consistently remind your children not to share their personal information online. When they are playing online games and talking with other gamers, be careful about what you say as well. Those microphones can be sensitive. It doesn’t do any good for little Johnny to not say his name if you walk past and say it while he’s playing.
3. Protect Your Password
Choose passwords that are impossible for others to figure out and change them occasionally. Use different passwords for all of your accounts, so if one is compromised, the others won’t be vulnerable. Also, use more difficult security questions. If you choose “what is your dog’s name” anyone who knows you or your dog can gain access to your account.
4. Use Separate Email Accounts
Use a separate email account for online activity, such as forums or memberships. If the account is hacked, all you have to do is delete it.
5. Keep Photos PG
Before sending a sexy or compromising picture of yourself, stop to think if you would want your parents, your boss or your children to see it. Once it’s out there, there’s no taking it back and it can pop up anywhere. Cyber bullies can use these types of photos to blackmail you, humiliate you or to cost you your job.
6. Pause Before You Click
Before hitting send on an angry or compromising message, save it to drafts and come back to it later. You never know when something will be forwarded, on purpose or by mistake. Cyber bullies can take what you’ve said and delete part of the message or change your words completely. What you say can sound entirely different when taken out of context. You don’t want to provide any ammunition that can be used against you.
7. Save Evidence
It may seem counterintuitive to hang on to negative comments, emails or messages, but they can be very important if you need to file a complaint, take legal action or defend yourself against false accusations. Create a separate folder for cyber bully evidence and make sure to back it up on an external drive. To make sure that you will be able to prove the validity of the evidence take a screen shot as well as saving any documents.
Stop the bully and any of their accomplices from having any direct contact with you. Mark their emails as spam or hit block sender. Delete them from your social media sites and change your security settings to only include your closest friends. You can also change your Facebook settings to “approve posts before publishing”, so you control what goes on your page.
10. Google Yourself
It’s a good idea to Google yourself to check for false profiles, “hate sites” and identity theft. Do separate searches for your name, username, phone number and address. You can also search for images of yourself by going to Google images, click on the camera icon and upload a photo of yourself.
11. Monitor You Child’s Online Activities
No matter how many times your child calls you a spy, continue to monitor their online accounts and activities. Set strict rules on having full access to their information. For example, if they clear their history, they lose their phone/laptop/iPad/freedom. If other people see your presence online, kids will be less likely to target them. Bullies don’t want adults to get involved in their cyber wars. This will cause them to lose their phone/laptop/iPad/freedom. Also let the school know about any cyber bullying. Although schools aren’t legally allowed to get involved in activities that occur off campus, if bullying is happening online, it is most likely happening in real life too. This will let them know to monitor the situation when the kids are at school or school activities.
12. Take a Cyber Break
If you are being targeted online, don’t be afraid to delete everything and step away for a while. Find other things to do, like spending time with your friends and family in person. This will help you feel less isolated and depressed. Reminding yourself that the real world is going on around you can make the virtual one seem less important.
Cyber bullying shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially for kids. We can say that words don’t hurt, but they do. Adults know how difficult it can be to hear a negative comment from online troll, and it’s unlikely to be someone that we know. However, for kids it is usually someone they know and see on a consistent basis. Handling cyber bullies is like handling real life bullies. We have to stand up for ourselves, stand up for others and let bullies know that their actions will not be tolerated.