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Lloyd Borrett speaks about Cyber Bullying

Impulse Gamer talks to Lloyd Borrett, Security Evangelist for AVG (AU/NZ) about the dangers of cyber bullying and how to empower your children to prevent them from being a victim.

As bullying moves away from traditional domains such as primary schools and high schools, what are your thoughts on why cyber bullying has become so dangerously popular among some of the younger generation?

Lloyd Borrett:
The Internet can be a wonderful and powerful tool when used properly by children who are aware of the dangers online. However, it’s also a powerful tool for bad people, especially cyber bullies clever enough to cloak their real identity and remain anonymous online.

Combine this with the fact that today’s kids spend so much time online with cheap, easy and ubiquitous access to the Internet via smart phones, tablets and mobile computers. Then add in that children are using social networks to give away their hearts and information to people who don’t deserve it. These kids just make it too easy for the bullies.

But there are other factors to consider. Once upon a time bullying might take the form of an insult written on a toilet wall, or name calling in the school yard. But today, it can take the form of real and fake photos and videos. It can be as simple as someone status-jacking their Facebook account and changing their “looking for” preference to that of the same sex, or sending rather unchivalrous messages to their friends of the opposite sex.

Cyber bullies can torment their victims around the clock. Plus the victim’s whole painful experience can now be witnessed by millions of virtual onlookers via social network sites. This increases the feeling of devastation. The victim simply doesn’t know how many people have seen the message, photo or video.  

Who should take responsibility for preventing cyber bullying in Australia?

Lloyd Borrett:
Well it starts with the children themselves. Most cyber bullying against children is done by other children, typically ones they know. If the kids properly understand the consequences of participating in any form of bullying and take responsibility for their actions, then the problem disappears.

Of course it’s also up to those who witness cyber bullying to report it. Thankfully, social network users are more likely to report online harassment.

It’s up to parents, teachers and family to educate the children about the right behaviours, values and expectations so that the kids simply won’t be tempted to get involved. Get the kids to think about “walking in someone else’s shoes”: how would they feel if this was happening to them.

Governments and the Internet services industry need to do more to support parents and teachers by making appropriate resources readily available.

The social networking sites also need to be doing more. 

With the Girl Guides Australia survey reporting that two thirds of young girls are subjected to bullying, not only are these results quite alarming but also quite dangerous. Were you surprised as the findings?

Lloyd Borrett:
No, I wasn’t. Especially when you combine these results with information from other sources reporting higher rates of suicide by children; that child suicide is often a result of bullying; and cyber bullying is a rapidly increasing part of bullying. 

Which gender do you believe are more prone to cyber bullying and why?

Lloyd Borrett:
Research shows boys are more likely to be the cyber bullies, and girls the victims. Anecdotal and hearsay evidence, plus the results of academic and scientific research, all show there is much more pressure on boys in today’s society. 

You mentioned in the article "Cyber bullying is not acceptable — how to help your children stand up for themselves online" (http://www.avg.com.au/news/avg_cyber_bullying_is_not_acceptable/) that "status-jacking" has become a growing trend. What advice can you give children and parents if this happens to them?

Lloyd Borrett:
If the status-jacker hasn’t already done so and thus effectively locked them out, the victim needs to get online and change their passwords to the account that has been compromised. Then they should change the passwords on their other online accounts. Children should report it to their parents or teachers. They should report it to the operators of the service, plus other authorities as appropriate. Save the details of any messages, images or videos as proof.  

Should social networking sites take more responsibility to prevent cyber bullying?

Lloyd Borrett:
There is more cyber bullying happening on Facebook and other social sites than the rest of the web. The operators of these social sites must take more responsibility for preventing the misuse of the systems and communities they have created. Just as a publican can’t escape responsibility for unruly behaviour by patrons at their pub, nor should the owners of social networking sites be able to put up their hands and say it’s not their fault when their services are used to facilitate cyber bullying. 

Do you believe that common law should now reflect cyber bullying?

Lloyd Borrett:
Sorry, not my area of expertise. Doesn’t it already? I doubt that anybody is getting off from being changed with cyber bullying related wrongdoings because of gaps in the law. 

What are the signs that a child is being cyber bullied?

Lloyd Borrett:
We all need to keep a look out for signs of depression. Studies have shown that there is little difference in depression levels between physical bullies and their victims. However, those who were victims of cyber-bullying exhibited higher levels of melancholy than their attackers.

Bullying is linked to lower levels of academic achievement, well-being and social development. So if your child’s grades are slipping, or if they’re withdrawing from their usual circle of friends and team activities, take it as a potential warning signal.

Cyber bullying is also often about social elimination. Be alert to children becoming suddenly cut off from their peers. 

Do you believe that schools or parents of the bullies are doing enough to stop cyber bullying?

Lloyd Borrett:
It’s important that parents and teachers communicate often with kids about their online life. They should be properly monitoring, and where necessary controlling, the cyber life of the kids. Parents need to be sharing it with them, instead of looking the other way or claiming ignorance of the technology.

Parents and teachers need to let the children know that ‘stranger danger’ applies to people online, just as it does in ‘real life’. Let them know that they shouldn’t accept messages from or exchange pictures with an online ‘friend’ or arrange to meet people they don’t know. They shouldn’t give out private or sensitive information such as passwords, their name, e-mail addresses, home address, phone number, school name or family or friends’ names online. But above all else, let them know that when something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. Encourage them to trust their instinct. 

What would you recommend to the government and schools in order to create a cyber-bullying curriculum to prevent this phenomenon from growing larger in Australia?

Lloyd Borrett:
A lot has already been done and programs are in place. The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) Cybersmart program — www.cybersmart.gov.au — provides education resources, advice and support for young people, teachers and families about a range of online safety issues. The Cybersafety Contact Centre provides practical information and helpful advice about and reporting of cyber safety matters.

There are many other programs and other curriculum material available. However, whether it is reaching the people it needs to, whether it’s being kept properly up-to-date, and whether it’s getting the message across adequately is hard to say one way or the other. Of course we can always be doing more, but then something else has to give way. 

How much monitoring should parents do while their children are on the internet?

Lloyd Borrett:
Parental monitoring is vitally important. So too is putting in place appropriate parental control measures to protect children from cyber bullying and blocking hateful content.

Parents should also look into what parental control features they may already have, but may not be using. There are a number of features built into video game systems, your TVs, mobile devices, internet browsers, and even certain computer operating systems. Be sure to include these in your research.

However, parents can’t always be looking over their kids’ shoulders to stop e-mail, chat and social network messages from pranksters and bullies. But they can help their kids be safe and savvy online. 

Cyber bullying was relatively unheard of 15-years ago, what do you think the future will hold for children of tomorrow?

Lloyd Borrett:
15 years ago not many kids were online, so it’s not surprising cyber bullying was unheard of. But today’s technology landscape is radically different.

If you simply project current trends, then it would seem we’re all going to become more connected and inter-connected. Today’s kids are embracing personal communication and tend to disclose things much deeper and much faster online than they would face to face. They share too much, get too close to relative strangers and can easily end up getting hurt. This might cause them to toughen up, but hopefully with a little help they’ll wise up and use the Internet more responsibly.

However, one of the things that enables cyber bullies to succeed so well online is that they can choose to be anonymous. As cyber bullying and cyber crime in general become more pervasive, there are moves afoot to toughen online security. If everyone’s identity online is easily traceable across international boundaries, then a lot of these problems would simply disappear.

However, I’m not a swami and I don’t have a crystal ball. The explosion of cyber bullying might simply be nothing but a passing phase which will go away as fast as it arrived, just as did “flower power” and “the summer of love” in the late 1960s. Or it might not. 

Thanks for your time.






 
 



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