Preventing cyberbullying in children and adolescents is one of the most important actions that can be taken to avoid the negative consequences that can result in the mental health of children and adolescents.
Communication and Information Technologies (ICT) have experienced a great advance in the last decades and, as a consequence, the society in which we live has also been modified.
The ICT have brought many benefits to human knowledge and information dissemination.
However, we can not deny that the Internet is free from damages, among which we can find bullying through the network .
How to Prevent Cyberbullying
Since Olweus began to study violence between equals -more known as bullying-, in 1970, the sensitivity of parents and educators to the violence that occurs among minors began to be aroused.
The concept of bullying -or mistreatment among schoolchildren- encompasses not only physical violence, but also psychological violence, which occurs through insults, threats, screams, etc.
On the other hand, ” cyberbullying “ is defined as a specific type of harassment, which occurs among minors in the world of interactive technologies , whose actions can be defined as “blackmail behavior, abuse or insults from some children to others”.
Although it can be thought that bullying and cyberbullying are manifestations of the same type of violence, there are characteristics that make cyberbullying a particularly dangerous type of harassment.
The characteristics that make it a particular phenomenon are:
Absence of face to face contact.
Keeping messages or aggressive actions for longer.
Existence of a larger audience – and more difficult to control.
Therefore, we speak of a type of harassment whose effects occur in different contexts -including the personal, interpersonal, intragroup and contextual level- and that generate doubts about its approach and treatment, due to the lack of knowledge on the part of teachers, family members and students.
In addition, a few years ago, before the rise of Information and Communication Technologies, when a child was the victim of bullying, he could come home and feel “safe”, since his assailants could not invade that space.
However, since these harassment behaviors among school children are also manifested through the internet, victims feel unprotected even in their own home.
7 Strategies to prevent cyberbullying
To address this problem adequately and prevent cyberbullying, it is necessary to carry out a multidisciplinary intervention, in which work is done from the school -with aggressors, victims and passive spectators-, and from the family itself.
In addition to this work by professionals, there are some specific guidelines to prevent cyberbullying, such as the following:
1. Educate boys and girls in habits of self-protection
Many adolescents trust personal data, intimate photos or other information with people who may use it against them.
Therefore, it is important that children begin to differentiate between the information they should and should not provide, that they keep their privacy safe and that they do not maintain a relationship online with people they do not know in person.
You have to make them see that the more personal information they provide to other people, the more vulnerable they are.
Another aspect to take into account is to make them see the importance of acting on social networks as they would in reality.
In this way, they will be able to understand that, just as they do not talk to a stranger on the street, neither should they do so through the Internet.
2. Stop harassment in the networks before the first manifestations
The maintenance of cyberbullying can be explained by the passive attitude that usually presents the victim, since it does not act to avoid it or does not go to the right people.
In this way, the stalkers begin to perceive that no one is going to put a stop to their manifestations of violence, so they experience a sense of control over the situation.
The advisable thing in these cases is that the victim keeps the necessary tests – pictures, commentaries, private messages – and to go to professors or other figures of authority to take letters in the subject.
In no case respond to insults or provocative acts, since this leads to the aggravation of the problem – the aggressor will be satisfied for having provoked you and will not perceive any punishment.
From home, it is important to show an open and understanding attitude, which facilitates communication between different members of the family.
3. Do not allow harassment to occur in any of its manifestations
It is necessary to activate in the individuals the disposition to act according to ethical contents, in accordance with minimum universal values and against harassment and violence in any of its manifestations.
Therefore, we must work to ensure that children do not become passive spectators, whether they witness real violence or through networks, since the aggressors will perceive that no one can stop them.
If you know someone who is in this situation, take action on the matter and inform the competent authority – teachers, family members, etc. – to act in the best possible way.
In this way, the victim will receive more attention from the people around him, in those cases in which he is afraid to tell his situation.
It is important that this problem begins to be conceived as a subject that involves us all, whether we are victims, friends or relatives of victims or spectators.
4. Teach children to use passwords and secure access codes
As we have seen previously, a form of cyberbullying occurs when the aggressors usurp the social network profiles of their victims.
Therefore, it is necessary for minors to understand the importance of being careful with their passwords.
Some tips that should be given are the following:
Do not choose intuitive passwords , such as birthday, first and last name, etc. The advisable thing is to use letters and numbers that do not have a special meaning – or that only have meaning for the own user-.
Do not reveal passwords to anyone. It is advisable that nobody has access to passwords and passwords, even if they are close friends or trusted people.
Be careful when logging into a public site. When using computers that other people have access to, you must be especially careful so that the key is not automatically saved on the computer, as well as making sure that you have successfully logged out.
Otherwise, if these security measures are not taken, the minor is exposed to other people being able to access private information, publish on their behalf, etc.
5. Learn to act if a child tells you that he or she is a victim of cyberbullying
The first thing you should do, knowing this situation, is to comfort the child and show your support and understanding.
Having felt unprotected for a certain time, the child will be in need of emotional support and feeling of security.
Then, try to extract more information about the specific case-duration, frequency, type of harassment in the networks-in order to assess its severity.
In the event that it is a long-term harassment, with constant threats and carried out by children who have personal information of the victim – such as personal address, school attended, videos or photos committed, the most appropriate is to inform the police so that it offers protection and information.
Remember that, at all times, you must be vigilant so that the cyberbullying victim feels protected – and that she is truly protected.
6. Have the victim stop visiting the pages that are harassing him
To prevent harassment from persisting, it is sometimes advised that the child stop visiting those pages or social networks where he or she is a victim of cyberbullying.
In the case of social networks, the victim may choose to create another profile -with a name that is more difficult to find- and eliminate the previous one, with the aim of adding only the people he or she really knows and with whom he or she wants to maintain the Contact.
With respect to mobile devices, it is sometimes necessary to change the number, especially if insults, threats and other manifestations of harassment are carried out through calls or messages.
In this way, restricting the access of the stalkers – especially if they are anonymous – to the victim, prevents cyberbullying from persisting.
7. Teach to value the positive part of internet use
Despite the dangers of using the internet, we must not forget its advantages and benefits -acquisition of new knowledge, the possibility of sharing hobbies, among others-.
If you want your children or students to benefit from the positive part, teach them to use it responsibly, visiting pages of interest and establishing reasonable hours – avoiding their use at night or for long periods of time.
It is also important that you control the pages you frequent and the activity you carry out – with the aim of detecting if your child is being a victim or an attacker of cyberbullying.
What is cyberbullying?
Among the causes that explain the emergence of this new type of harassment, we can find the following:
Development and mastery of Information and Communication Technologies (TIC’s). As we have already mentioned, one of the negative aspects of ICT is that some people misuse them, using them with the objective of harming others.
Harassment camouflaged. Another factor that explains this type of abuse is that the aggressors maintain their anonymity, hide behind the computer screen and dehumanize the victim (their aggressions are taken as a joke, since they do not see the reaction it provokes in the other person) .
Impotence of the victim. When the aggressor does not show his true identity, the victim feels a sense of helplessness and frustration, so he can not defend himself or find the aggressors, many times.
Lack of knowledge about the method of action in cyberbullying. Many teaching professionals and relatives of victims of this type of harassment do not know how to act to prevent or stop cyberbullying.
Legal abandonment of harassment in the network. Although it is true that certain content that appears on the Internet can be eliminated, this procedure sometimes occurs too late. In addition, removing certain offensive content does not ensure that it will not happen again (or there may be people who have saved that information or pejorative photos on their mobile devices).
How does it manifest?
There are different ways in which perpetrators can carry out cyberbullying, such as those listed below:
The aggressor can create a false profile to gain the confidence of the victim -or to maintain his anonymity-, after which insults, threats, etc. can begin .
Through private messages, they threaten or insult the victim. For example, messages in which the victim is forced to do something against their will under the threat that they will post compromised photos or that they will harm him physically.
They can also publish information accessible to all contacts of the victim and the aggressor (for example, write insults on their wall, or share photos or videos showing how they beat the victim).
Another form of violence occurs when the victim is discharged – with a photo included – on websites where the ugliest, fattest person, etc. is voted.
Invade the pages that the victim frequents and harass him repeatedly, so that the person who suffers the harassment has a feeling of complete overwhelm.
Send or spread cruel rumors about someone who harms their reputation or harms their friends.
Manipulate digital materials: photos, recorded conversations, emails, change them, trick them and modify them to ridicule and harm people.
Steal passwords to impersonate your identity.