Updated: Oct 24, 2019
Written by Assoc Prof Dr Alvin Ng Lai Oon, Clinical Psychologist and Founding President of the MSCP
1 in 4 students had experienced cyberbullying, revealed a survey by Digi and Telenor Group last year. CyberSecurity Malaysia also recorded a total of 1524 cyberbullying cases from 2012 to 2016. The real number might be higher as cases are usually underreported.
Children nowadays are exposed to social media and the internet even before they can talk. Some have their own account even before starting school. This is an expected effect of the internet revolution, but it has also led to many unforeseen and unwanted situations, especially cyberbullying. Various efforts to raise awareness of this issue have been done by the government and nongovernmental organisations alike, such as the CyberSAFE campaign and the People Against Cyber Threats (PeopleACT) initiative.
Don’t feed the trolls!
Part of the prevention should be teaching children about cyberbullying. Children should learn how to detect cyberbullying and if they are being targeted. They should know what to do and how to steer away from danger confidently. Parents should also teach their kids to avoid the dark alleys of the internet where cyberbullying is widespread. Empower children to stand up to cyberbullying.
Prevention can start by having specific rules for safe internet usage. Set a limit on how long children can be online. Caution them against sharing personal photos or information to strangers. Prevent kids from going to toxic and harmful websites by installing parental control software. Computers should be kept in common areas like the living room for easier monitoring. Parents should keep track of their kids’ usage of personal gadgets if they have one. Parents can discuss the rules with them and ask them to contribute to the rules as well as the consequences of breaking them.
“You have a new friend request!”
There are always new trends appearing online. It can be tough to keep track of all the new social media that your kids are using, but you have to know their playing ground. Parents have to be social-media savvy by learning how they are used and who the users are. In fact, parents should be a ‘friend’ or ‘follower’ of their underage children’s social media accounts to keep tabs of their profile pages and see if anything is suspicious. Kids may think it is ‘uncool’ to have their parents on the friend’s list, so respect their privacy, build trust and do not be too intrusive.
What are the signs if your kids are being cyberbullied? They may behave unusually or post suspicious messages on their profile. Talk to them about any issues trending online and assure them that they can always come to you if anything that happened online is upsetting, inappropriate, or dangerous. If they are being bullied, tell them not to respond to the threats or comments. Block or ban the bullies from their profile or report them to the site administrator. As evidence against the bullies, keep copies of the comments by saving the screenshot.
When approached by kids about cyberbullying problems, parents have to be supportive, trusting and understanding toward them. Guide them on how to deal with the problem and work together to find a solution. Do not blame them for the situation or sweep it under the rug. Cyberbullying can turn into verbal abuse and physical violence. Alert school teachers of the problem so they can keep an eye out for bullying during the school period.
Cyberbullying is a new form of bullying and the anonymity of the internet may contribute to the phenomenon. It is as serious as real-life bullying and should not be regarded as a trivial matter. The internet is a powerful tool, but not everyone is using it with the best intentions in mind. Parents have to guide their children when using this tool, to prevent them from abusing it and being abused.
Cyberbullying victims can get in touch with Befrienders, a suicide and depression support group, to get help. Contact their 24-hour hotline number at +603-79568144 or +603-79568145, or email them at email@example.com. Cyberbullying cases can also be reported to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) by calling the complaint hotline at 1800-188-030, sending an SMS to SKMM ADUAN [Complaint Details] at 15888, sending a WhatsApp message to +6016-2206 262, or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. my. If cyberbullying becomes more rampant, with serious threats or physical violence, get law enforcement involved.