Calling all parents: How to address cyber-bullying

The research claiming that depression and anxiety among teenagers is higher than other generations fueled by sexting and online bullying clearly indicates the dangers facing young people in today’s digital world.

Yet the true extent of the problem is likely to be even worse as more and more children start engaging online from a younger age.

Our research reveals that the majority of parents believe that cyber-bullying is not a problem until children reach at least 10 and so don’t plan to address it until then, but this perception is clearly misguided. The problem is that many parents assume that cyber-bullying only becomes a problem when children start using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

However, the reality is that children as young as five are in fact using platforms where they can receive messages and interact with others, such as shared school platforms, social games, and even photo-sharing sites such as Instagram.

With the dangers clearly growing, it’s imperative that parents talk openly about the risks with their children as soon as they start interacting online – which may be younger than they think. This will ensure that the issue is addressed before it becomes a problem and will help to enable parents, and children, to stay one step ahead of the cyber-bullies and other online dangers.

Here's our list of top tips for keeping your children safe online.

  1. Talk to them about the potential dangers.
  2. Encourage them to talk to you about their online experience and, in particular, anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened.
  3. Set clear ground-rules about what they can and can't do online and explain why you have put them in place. You should review these as your child gets older.
  4. Use parental control software to establish the framework for what's acceptable - how much time (and when) they can spend online, what content should be blocked, what types of activity should be blocked (chat rooms, forums, etc.). Parental control filters can be configured for different computer profiles, allowing you to customise the filters for different children.
  5. Protect computers using Internet security software.
  6. Don't forget their smartphone - these are sophisticated computers, not just phones. Most smartphones come with parental controls and security software providers may offer apps to filter out inappropriate content, senders of nuisance SMS messages, etc.

David Emm is Principal Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab.