The news about cyberbullying – a terrible trend involving online abuse between children, teens and young adults – just got worse. A study by McAfee, an Internet security company owned by Intel, reports cyberbullying incidents tripled in 2014.
“Alarmingly…a whopping 87% have witnessed cyberbullying and 26% have been victims themselves,” McAfee online-security expert Robert Siciliano wrote in a blog titled “Teens’ Online Behavior Can Get Them in Trouble.”
Siciliano, the father of two girls, also said one-quarter of American youths admit to not knowing what steps to take if they are victims of cyberbullying, such as blocking the offender’s page and halting further contact.
Cyberbullying is dangerous and sometimes deadly to such an impressionable age group that constantly is connected to cell phones and other digital devices. The majority of millennials lives and breathes by apps, posts, texts and Tweets.
“As parents, we need to be aware of what our kids are doing, teach the ‘rules of the road,’ and help them stay safe, but we can’t always be there with them every moment of every day,” Siciliano wrote. “But we do need to understand that our kids are doing things online that could expose them to risk.”
He speaks the truth. According to “Teens and the Screen: Exploring Online Privacy, Social Networking and Cyberbullying,” 87 percent of youths have observed cyberbullying, compared with 27 percent in 2013, a scarily significant statistic. Of that 87 percent, a total of 72 percent said cyberbullying took place based on physical appearances, and 26 percent said it was rooted in race or religion. Twenty-two percent stated sexuality drove the cruel behavior.
The risky result of cyberbullying is the emotional effect it has on those subjected to it and how they carry into their offline lives.
“Parents must discuss online activity with their children to better ensure their safety and security offline,” McAfee chief privacy officer Michelle Dennedy said in the study. “Whether a child is a victim or an instigator of cruel behavior such as cyberbullying, the negative behavior can deeply affect their identity and their reputation.”
The study targeted 1,500 youths and young adults ages 10 to 18 and revealed cyberbullying is not that big of a concern among them. About 25 percent said they feared compromises to their privacy settings and getting hacked, while 12 percent said they feared being cyberbullied.
In an effort to change that attitude, children who witness cyberbullying should be instructed to report it immediately so parents can take proper precautions.
Here are some other tips to help the young population stay safe in cyberspace:
- Talk with your children about the risks of their and others’ online actions.
- Obtain your children’s passwords to use in case of emergency.
- Know which devices your children are using, as well as apps, games, social-media sites and programs.
- Explain to your children that anything and everything they do, post or write online potentially could stay there for a long time and be seen by strangers.