Covid-19 Cyberbullying Spike: How To Protect Your Children From Online Abuse

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The more time children spend online, the greater the risk of cyberbullying. Photo / Getty Images

Reports of cyberbullying have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, but more schools and homes are learning how to prevent abuse.

With most of the country forced online, Australia has seen an increase in cyberbullying and image-based abuse for primary and secondary school students.

Statistics provided by the country’s Office of the Online Safety Commissioner show that one in five Australian children have been the victim of cyberbullying, with 14 being the average age of the victims.

Girls are much more targeted than boys and this is more common in primary schools, where 70% of bullying is directed against young girls.

Research from the Cyber ​​Safety Project also found that children access social media at a younger age due to Covid.

“Before the pandemic, about 40% of the students we assessed had used social media before the age of 12. Our research earlier this year, among about 2,000 students, showed that 84% of they had now used social media before the age of 12, ”said Trent Ray, co-founder of the Cyber ​​Safety Project.

However, there has also been a significant growth in programs focused on preventing cyberbullying and image-based abuse.

ESafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said uptake of the organization’s Trusted eSafety Provider program, which supports evidence-based online safety education programs for schools, has increased dramatically. .

“In the last fiscal year, 2,772 schools – or roughly 29% of all Australian schools – had at least one session from a trusted eSafety provider,” said Inman Grant.

“These providers reported that a total of 772,305 participants participated in their school programs in the 2020-21 fiscal year alone.”

Tips for protecting children online

News.com.au spoke to cybersecurity experts about the most common forms of cyberbullying and image-based abuse for elementary and secondary school students.

They recommend trying out the games and apps your kids use, as well as starting an open dialogue about what they like to do on the internet.

Here are some of their top tips for elementary school students, high school students, online gaming, and building positive online relationships.

Children of primary school age

Getting involved in the apps and games school-aged children use is key advice from cybersecurity experts.

Optus Digital Thumbprint program manager Kristina Binks said most parents should be able to navigate their children’s online apps.

“Go ahead and see how you feel, look at the options available on the product. Whether it’s live chat or different elements of the game,” she said.

She added that it was important to be practical as the majority of children learn by making mistakes.

“This generation of kids was raised on technology where the stakes are very low. There was a lot of concern about computers in the 90s and 2000s where it felt like a mistake could destroy the computer. system, ”she said.

“Kids these days learn by making mistakes online because the repercussions are so minor now that it’s easy for them to do so. The problem is, they learn what the limits are, but they don’t understand those limits.

School-age children

As children enter high school, they face greater issues of image-based abuse and cyberbullying.

Studies show that bullying up to the age of 10 to 14 affects its victims the most.

As students age, there is also the prevalence of image-based violence. This is usually manifested by sharing intimate photos online.

Ms Binks said it is important for children to know the legality of what they can do.

“As a teenager, they start to explore different online communications. When you text a partner, how do you know it won’t be shared? If you are over 18, you can legally send certain types of images. But if you’re not, there are hard rules, ”she said.

“People often forget that asking for nude photos is also illegal. It’s the same with sharing or having nude photos on your phone that weren’t meant for you – or the person is under 18. “

Games

Online gambling is well and truly part of the growth in 2021.

Millions of people participate in these games, which act as social platforms, across the world.

Cyber ​​Safety Project co-founder Trent Ray said 90 percent of children who participate in their programs play games, and 60 percent of them report playing regularly.

“Online play is a new kind of social interaction, most games now have an element of social connection. Most children play with people they know, however, there is an element of the unknown in these environments, ”he said.

“Our surveys show that 39% of children have an ongoing friendship with someone they meet online.”

He recommends that parents actively research privacy and wellness settings in the game.

“Games have these settings that can protect kids, but they’re not default settings. You just turn them on and on,” he said.


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