Cyberbullying. Kidas ProtectMe
WORDS BY Marylene Vestergom
As many parents prepare to send their children back to school, it’s important to remember that bullying extends beyond the classroom. In the ever-expanding digital world we live and work in, cyberbullying has become the modern-day equivalent of a schoolyard bully.
Starting a new school year means new friends, and our children’s online interactions on various platforms, like Facebook, TikTok and online gaming, are commonly used to communicate, learn and socialize; they can also bring an unsuspecting intruder to your child’s world.
It’s essential to stay informed about cyberbullying and be vigilant in protecting your child.
That’s why Toronto’s Jenna Greenspoon is a strong advocate of Kidas ProtectMe and joined the company as Head of Parenting. “It uses AI and machine learning to monitor voice and text chats in more than 200 of the most popular PC games. The best part is it runs silently in the background, so it doesn’t interrupt their gaming. Still, it alerts parents with real-time SMS text messages of the most concerning and dangerous threats, including privacy violations.”
“Cyberbullying takes on various forms,” points out Greenspoon. “Harassment is a popular type that involves repeatedly sending hurtful messages or comments to a person. Spreading rumours or lies is another form. Cyberstalking is also prevalent, especially in online gaming, where an individual repeatedly sends threatening messages or tries to intimidate someone.”
According to Media Smarts, Canada’s Centre for Digital Literacy, one reason cyberbullying may be more harmful than bullying in person is the invisible nature of cyberbullying, leaving the child uncertain about whom they can trust. Unfortunately, this leaves the child without a safety net, not knowing who they can turn to and imagining that the consequences of telling someone may be worse than the bullying.
What can parents do?
“I can’t stress enough how important communication with your child is,” says Greenspoon. “Whether it’s a bullying situation with friends over text, sexting through social media or getting hacked in a video game, at some point, your child will need your support, which they can only get if they feel comfortable speaking to you about it – openly.”
However, when it comes to online safety, parents need to set rules and boundaries for their children’s online activity, including limits on screen time and communication with others. In addition, Greenspoon suggests implementing online safety measures, such as installing protective software like ProtectMe. “This software provides reports and alerts from ProtectMe and will give parents the information needed about any threats their child comes into contact with and suggestions on how to speak to your child about it.”
What are the signs they need to look for?
Cyberbullying can be hard to detect, especially when the child doesn’t tell anyone. Here are some signs to look for if you suspect your child is being cyberbullied:
• Sudden disinterest in socializing, withdrawing from close friends and/or family members.
• Difficulty sleeping or a change in eating habits.
• Reluctance to discuss anything occurring in their online life.
What should parents do?
As each situation is different, it’s important to keep documentation of the communication and record where the cyberbullying appeared. In some cases, cyberbullying can be reported to the authorities as harassment, threats, intimidation, and other forms of cyberbullying can result in criminal charges. And as the lines of communication are essential to obtain that much-needed trust between you and your children, Greenspoon reminds parents to speak with their children about how you’re handling the situation. “You want to ensure that you don’t make the situation worse for them,” says Greenspoon.
Knowing the signs of cyberbullying and how to intervene can go a long way in protecting your child’s emotional and mental well-being. Greenspoon’s advice: take the time to educate yourself and stay up-to-date with online safety measures to ensure your child’s online experience this school year is a positive one.
To learn more, visit getkidas.com and download a free trial of ProtectMe.
Real-life examples of ProtectMe detecting potential threats.
Ron Kerbs, CEO of Kidas, highlights several concerning alerts that have been reported in the United States. These include instances where individuals have threatened to bring a weapon to school, claimed to have weapons in their homes, or have been approached by a sexual predator. In Canada, Kidas ProtectMe has tracked a number of recent alerts as well.
(RED) Privacy Violation – Your child was involved in a conversation where they shared that they are planning to receive the address of another person and meet them in person.
(ORANGE) Flaming – Your child insulted another player in a game.
(YELLOW ) Flaming – In the past week, your child played a game where aggressive comments were made by both your child and other gamers.
(YELLOW) Sexual Content – Your child spoke inappropriately to another gamer.