Which is a bigger worry for parents: COVID or cyberbullying?

A new study shows twice as many of us worry more about online bullying than we do about COVID, the economy or crime.

The research, which surveyed 2,000 adults in the US and the UK, also found two-thirds believe Big Tech has a duty to prevent abuse.

But even more - seven out of 10 - believe families need to take responsibility to protect their children. 

The same study, conducted by the British firm NordVPN, found that gaming and social media were the main platforms for online harassment of kids, ranging from hacking someone’s account to “doxxing” them by posting personal information such as addresses and phone numbers. 

It's all about social media and gaming

Researchers found that social media accounted for 70% of the cyberbullying experienced by children. Nearly half (47%) of incidents occurred on Instagram, while Facebook (37%) and Snapchat (31%) were also identified as significant bullying sites.

Research published in the Journal of Health Economics found cyberbullying increases suicidal thinking among victims by 14.5%, and suicide attempts by 8.7%. Yet according to figures from the National Crime Prevention Council, 80% of perpetrators say they engage in cyberbullying because they think it's funny.

But online gaming is another major platform for abuse and harassment of children, the study found. Fully a quarter of cyberbullying incidents are now happening in online games.

That finding supports previous research that has found strong links between competitive multiplayer action games and abusive behaviour. 

How serious is it?

Research published in the Journal of Health Economics found cyberbullying increases suicidal thinking among victims by 14.5%, and suicide attempts by 8.7%. Yet according to figures from the National Crime Prevention Council, 80% of perpetrators say they engage in cyberbullying because they think it's funny.

In other news this week, insurance tech start-up Waffle has begun offering stand-alone cyber protection policies designed to help victims of cyberbullying recover costs associated with mental health services, tutoring and even re-location expenses. 

It’s an indication of exactly how widespread the problem has become.

“Mark my words, in five years every major insurance company will offer this,” Waffle CEO Quentin Coolen told The Wall Street Journal.

Active steps to prevent cyberbullying

As digital parents, you’re probably already aware that strong passwords can prevent bullies from hacking into your child’s social media accounts. If you haven’t done a password check with your child lately - or perhaps ever - there’s no time like the present.

While you’re at it, make sure the privacy settings on your child’s accounts are adequate. Explain the importance of deciding who gets to see the images, stories, and snaps they post, and who gets to view their profile. 

Kids can get added protection online by not using their real name for any online account. This can hinder would-be bullies from finding out where they live, what school they go to, or who their family members are.

Using strong parental controls to limit or block problematic apps on children’s devices is another proven way to minimise the risk.

Finally, make sure that they have access to safe, offline spaces to express themselves. Teens often use online spaces to open up emotionally, which can make them vulnerable to online attackers. Create an environment where kids feel comfortable expressing their “big feelings” to friends and family in real life. 

Family Zone lets you block Instagram, Snapchat, Fortnite, Roblox and dozens of other apps with a single click. 

Create a home where digital children thrive, and start your free trial today.

 

 

 

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Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Excessive Device Usage, gaming apps, online gaming, Social Media, cyberbullying, school holidays

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