Between shopping for school supplies and hunting down the best first-day outfit, preparing for back-to-school is a busy time.
But amidst the chaos, it is critical to also prepare for a less exciting necessity: online safety. With today’s technology, bullying and online harassment can continue long after the final school bell rings.
According to the RCMP, 31 per cent of Canadian youth say they have experienced cyberbullying. About 50 per cent of youth and 30 per cent of parents say they have witnessed cyberbullying directed at someone else.
Observers say this form of harassment can have devastating effects on those involved, including anxiety, a decline in grades, or feelings of helplessness. Both cyberbullying victims and cyberbullies are twice as likely as their peers to attempt suicide, according to the RCMP.
Luckily, there are ways you can recognize cyberbullying, stop it from happening and seek help.
The RCMP defines cyberbullying as “using computers, smartphones or other connected devices to embarrass, hurt, mock or threaten someone online.”
This can include many things, such as posting an embarrassing photo of someone, breaking into someone’s social media account, using information found online to harass an individual, or fooling someone into revealing secrets that are then shared.
Signs a young person may be experiencing cyberbullying include:
- Changes to the amount of time they spend online or being secretive about online activity
- Noticeable difference in mood
- Detachment from family, friends, or activities they enjoy
- Having trouble sleeping or eating
- Lower grades
If you are experiencing cyberbullying, there are things you can do to stop it, such as:
- Not responding to the messages
- Screenshot messages to keep on record
- Block the bully
- Adjust your privacy settings
- Report the behaviour through the social media site
- Talk to an adult you trust, such as a teacher, parent, or guardian
If you suspect your child is experiencing online harassment or bullying, it is essential to take action and speak to them about it. Nearly 75 per cent of parents say cyberbullying stopped after they took action, according to the RCMP.
Internet safety and digital literacy education specialist company, White Hatter, has many parental resources, including reading material and videos for online protection.
Other great resources include Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868), NeedHelpNow.ca, Cybertip.ca, Public Safety Canada and RCMP Centre for Youth Crime Prevention.