How to Protect Kids from Cyberbullying

how to stop cyberbullying and how to protect kids from cyberbullying

Search volume of the term “cyberbullying”, which shows a clear upward trend in recent years.
Source: Google Trends.

Teens are already notorious for taunting their peers, and now technology has provided another avenue for adolescents to become involved in destructive behavior. Thus began the rise of cyberbullying: bullying via electronic communication usually occurring in the form of mean-spirited and particularly harmful messages.

The fact that 88% of young adults use cell phones regularly only serves to exacerbate the issue of cyberbullying. In fact, about 43% of kids have reported being bullied online while 87% have witnessed cyberbullying of others. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are hot spots for bullying, as 58% of kids say they have been negatively addressed on social media. However, growing awareness of the topic has led to various initiatives to stop cyberbullying  at home and in school.

Here are a few tips to protect kids from cyberbullying:

Educate kids about cyberbullying

Research indicates that most kids are not completely sure what constitutes the act of cyberbullying. In a recent study about student screen time conducted by Securly, K-12 students spoke very casually about online teasing/taunting as if it were an expected norm.  Many students may not realize when they have gone too far, or when someone else has crossed the line.

Acts that can be considered cyberbullying include using offensive language (e.g., hateful, derogatory, racist, or homophobic remarks), harassment, gossip, or even impersonating someone on the web.  It is important that kids are informed of the cyberbullying resources and support systems available to them  – unfortunately, only 1 in 10 victims reach out to an adult about the abuse.  

Teach students how to be good digital citizens! Qualities of digital citizenship include responsible and considerate behavior on the web. Schools should (and many do) instill a firm anti-cyberbullying policy and a report system in order to prevent cyberbullying.

It’s important for cyberbullying victims to realize they are not alone; too often, kids who are bullied can slip into depression and are as much as 9 times more likely to consider suicide.  And as we have seen in many recent tragic school shootings in the United States, seeking revenge for being bullied or cyberbullied by peers is often the strongest motivation for committing such a violent act. Understanding the ramifications of cyberbullying will help kids be more considerate of how they treat others.

Customize privacy settings on social media

Cyberbullies can be peers, but also strangers on the Internet under anonymous usernames that post hurtful comments.  This can be just as impactful as mean-spirited words from someone they know.  

Kids can limit their social media circles to a positive environment consisting of friends, family, and trusted acquaintances.  This can be as simple as being discriminating when accepting friend requests.  

Most social media sites have features that allow the user to limit who can see their profile. Facebook in particular has a feature that allows users to hide photos from specific people of the user’s choosing.  Check out this article for instructions on how to customize privacy settings on various social media platforms.  

Use anti-cyberbullying technology

Protect kids from cyberbullying by stopping it at the source!  Get kids to think about what they’re about to post by using helpful new technological innovations.

High schooler Trisha Prabhu created an app called “ReThink” which asks kids to think twice about the content which they are posting if the message seems to have a negative tinge. She found that 93% of the time, children chose not to post an offensive message.  The part of the adolescent brain that controls decision making is not fully developed, which explains why young adults often times make rash decisions without fully considering the consequences.

There are also a variety of cyberbullying prevention apps that detect keywords relating to bullying, sexual content, profanity, etc which can help parents monitor their child’s behavior. The recent advances made in machine learning and natural language processing allow some apps to detect sentiments of bullying and self-harm (even in the absence of keywords) used on social media.

To learn more about cyberbullying prevention/detection, and other parental controls, sign up for our parent newsletter below.

4 Ways for Parents to Keep Kids Safe on YouTube

Keep kids and students safe on YouTube with YouTube Safety Mode and other protective parental controls.

YouTube celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this year. According to comScore, it is the top online video content website, with over 152 million unique monthly viewers.

Offering diverse content (everything from Video Games to Health & Beauty and Japanese cats), YouTube appeals to many different audiences – especially kids. In both schools and homes, it can serve as a valuable educational resource and source of entertainment; however, many genres of videos are not quite kid-safe.

Fortunately, there are a few “quick n’ easy” precautions parents can take to ensure YouTube safety. Here are four ways to keep kids safe on YouTube:

1) Turn on YouTube Safety Mode

YouTube Safety Mode is a kid-friendly option for filtering inappropriate or questionable content on YouTube. Parents can follow these simple steps to enable the filter. YouTube Safety Mode serves as a direct line of defense. It hides explicit content through community flagging, age-restrictions, and porn image detection, ultimately minimizing the risk that kids will stumble upon any unsavory videos or user comments.

Bear in mind that the option is both browser- and device-specific: for example, enabling it on Google Chrome will not automatically enable it on Mozilla Firefox. For a small monthly fee, some web filters and parental controls may offer the ability to enforce safe YouTube across all devices in the household.

2) Privacy Settings

Kids are at risk for more than just exposure to explicit content.  Anyone who actively posts his/her own videos on YouTube is susceptible to mean-spirited internet trolls who post crude, harmful comments.

To prevent this form of YouTube cyberbullying, parents can implement YouTube Privacy Settings.  This optional feature can block users and moderate comments (by removing specific comments or blocking anyone from commenting altogether), and can specify who is able to see a particular video. More specifically, YouTube offers the following video settings: Public, Private, and Unlisted.

In addition, parents can block advertisements and interest based ads, further filtering the content accessible to kids online.

3) For younger children, approve content in advance

Parents can research what content is age-appropriate for their child by screening or “favoriting” videos in advance of those long car rides. This way, they know exactly what their child is watching and can avoid accidental linkage to inappropriate content when they are unable to supervise them.

For parents who simply don’t have the time or are running out of ideas on what is considered “appropriate” for their child’s age group – Have no fear!  Check out sites like Common Sense Media which provide reliable, detailed suggestions and examples for age appropriate media content. 

Alternatively, parents of children ages 5 and under, can make use of YouTube Kids, a free app that makes available only a subset of pre-approved, kid-safe content on YouTube.

4) Get involved!  Report inappropriate videos by ‘flagging’

All adults can play a part in making YouTube a more kid-friendly environment!  If you find a video with inappropriate content, report it by clicking “more” and then “report” under the video window.  This process is referred to as ‘flagging’ a video for moderator review.  Fortunately, review of flagged videos occurs 24/7; YouTube makes this service a priority and is highly responsive to your report requests.

To learn more about implementing a safer YouTube and other parental controls, sign up for our parent newsletter below. Have other ways of making YouTube safe for kids? Please share your suggestions in the comments.


5 Reasons Why K-12 Schools Are Abandoning Web Filtering Appliances

K-12 K12 schools choosing cloud-based web filtering solutions over hardware appliance web filtering, best appliance web filter, best web filter for schools

Until recently, K-12 web filtering has been dominated by hardware solutions.

Prior to the enactment of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) nearly 15 years ago, schools had little need or opportunity to change a system that was considered to be acceptable and the norm.

However, given the shift towards cloud computing in the last few years, schools are finding more reason to abandon traditional web filtering options in favor of other, hardware-free solutions.

Here are the five reasons why appliance-based web filtering is dying in K-12:

1) They don’t have school-focused features

Yes, general enterprise solutions are built with plenty of add-ons that are intended to increase security – yet these services don’t address school-specific issues like classroom management, safe social media, and cyberbullying.

Some filtering solutions cast a blanket ban over video streaming sites like YouTube, which can be a very helpful educational resource. In an effort to protect students from the unsavory side of the site, they block all content instead of building upon features like YouTube Safety Mode or YouTube for Schools in order to create a safe YouTube.

2) They’re too expensive

These add-ons add up. Even though schools don’t need the extra features that enterprise solutions provide, they are required to pay the price.

A 2014 article by KQED showed that school web filters can cost as much as $40 per student. Large corporations are able to pay these fees, but schools often cannot.

Moreover, with hardware solutions, schools must pay for the web filtering box in addition to annual per user license costs. As their 1:1 take home programs scale, schools may need to purchase additional boxes to support their program’s expansion, as one appliance often can only support a few hundred devices at a time.

3) They’re not designed to filter students at home

One big distinction between businesses and schools is that the former has no interest or requirement to enforce off-site web filtering.

On the other hand, schools are increasingly adopting 1:1 take-home programs, an arrangement in which each student takes a school-provisioned device home to use for school assignments. Naturally, a big concern for schools is being able to manage what students are doing on the device when they are away from school.

This is an area in which appliance web filters once again come up short. When the 1:1 device is at home with the student, all traffic needs to be routed from the student’s home to the the appliance on school grounds and then back out to the Internet. This imposes limits on at-home browsing speeds, as the device is often limited by the school’s bandwidth uplink.

4) They require nontrivial setup and maintenance

So a school has decided to buy the service. Then what? With an appliance-centered web filtering approach, IT admins have to wait for the box to be shipped (days later) and then start the set-up process (days later).

These admins are also responsible for network uptime even outside of school hours. For instance, if the web filtering appliance is impacted by a storm, the admin needs to make an on-site visit to get everything back up and running, if they even can.

5) There are alternative solutions!

With the advent of solutions like safe web browsers, Chrome extensions (for devices running Chrome OS and/or the Chrome browser), and cloud-based web filtering, schools now have the freedom to depart from traditional appliance-based solutions.

Typically used for iPads, schools can enforce the use of safe web browsers so that students can only access a subset of pre-approved content on the Internet.

For schools using Google Apps for Education (GAfE), IT Admins have the ability to manage devices and push out Chrome extensions from a central console.

Cloud-based web filtering allows schools to enjoy the granularity of an appliance while getting set up in minutes and managing all students’ devices and reporting in the cloud.

To learn more about cloud-based web filtering for schools, you can subscribe to our blog (above) or to our newsletter (below).