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.
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
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
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
Who should take
responsibility for preventing cyber bullying
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
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
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?
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.
in the article "Cyber bullying is not acceptable — how to help
your children stand up for themselves online"
that "status-jacking" has become a growing trend. What advice
can you give children and parents if this happens to them?
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.
networking sites take more responsibility to prevent cyber bullying?
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?
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?
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
Do you believe
that schools or parents of the bullies are doing enough to stop
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?
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.
monitoring should parents do while their children are on the
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
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.
was relatively unheard of 15-years ago, what do you think the
future will hold for children of tomorrow?
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
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.