Today's access to information has given young adults the type of freedom and confidence that is sometimes way beyond their emotional understanding. Most children know more about the internet than adults do, and several of them enjoy the privacy afforded by their parents—leading to them becoming perpetrators or victims of cyber bullying. Yes, children do bully other children. Attitudes have not shifted, only the playground.
Given that digital crime is increasing in India and across the world, we often get cases involving the safety of children online, especially tweens. Let's examine this case: Mr. X listens alertly as his 14-year old daughter laughs out loud while texting on her phone. She seems happy; she's safe in their home—so he does not feel the need to pry and check what she is texting, or to whom. However, the internet can often be a border-less predator, and one day he finds her in tears—the victim of cyber bullying.
Her phone is filled with unflattering texts from an unknown group of people. He cannot make out their gender or their age but the messages are accusatory and defamatory. Even her Facebook page has received some suspicious posts. While Mr. X can take this to the cyber-security cell in his city, there are some preventive measures that he could have taken, by simply following this diktat, "your child's safety is more important than your child's privacy."
Step 1 – Enter your Child's World
Close to 62% of teens say their parents know little or nothing about the websites they visit. Be involved, knowledgeable and interested in the devices, apps and sites your children use for school and for fun.
Step 2 – Engage in a little Reverse Mentoring
Ask your child to show you the apps, websites or games on their phone, and sit together to figure out how to use or play them, and further how to apply the privacy protocols present in the apps or browsers themselves. If you do this jointly, you both learn from each other and
help prevent an unforeseen incident. Talk about what both of you can do to protect your individual identities online.
Step 3 – Be the Benevolent Dictator Parent
Understand what you're saying yes to. Explain to your child why these protocols must be turned on and discuss in detail what constitutes a dangerous situation for your child and the family. Set boundaries for how much time can be spent online and pre-decide punishments for violating family rules. Ensure that you yourself are not sharenting. Rules should be for everyone.
Step 4 – Involve a Counselor or Coach
Often children live out their imaginary or secret lives online and your interference in that area might be met with suspicion and hostility. Organize 3-monthly trust building exercises between family members using the services of a life coach or family counselor. This way, as a parent, you can monitor your child's well-being without being overbearing.
Step 5 – Talk to the Authorities Immediately
When there is a clear threat to your child, it's time to take serious action. Block the person/s harassing your child. Take away your child's phone/computer temporarily and examine it yourself. Report the incident to the police. Understand all the players involved and speak to a lawyer if you need to initiate legal action against any of the players.
Originally published 18 December 2019
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.