Guard Yourself Against These 3 Things

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October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Each week in October is dedicated to a different cyber security theme, and features appropriate resources to help all internet users protect themselves from threats online.

Both children and adults should be cautious of their interactions online, while also considering whom they are dealing with:

BOTS

Bots are useful tools and potentially constitute 60% of website traffic. However, they are oftentimes employed to conduct cybercriminal activity. They are a type of malware, allowing hackers to remotely take control over the infected computer.

Bots can be website scrapers and spammers, while extensive “botnets” (an army of infected computers) can take down a website in mere seconds called a Denial-of-Service Attack. Bots send viruses and are often used to steal personal information (credit card information, bank credentials, social security numbers), putting victims at risk of fraud.

STRANGERS

The digital age promised to bring the world closer – and indeed the younger generation seems to be reflecting the sentiment, sharing increasingly more personal information with strangers online. The study extrapolates that 1 in 5 people share sensitive data (including passport scans, bank information, and personal documents) online with others they do not know well.

Neglecting to install proper security measures or voluntarily sharing personal information introduces many risks, from Venmo scams and fraud to sexual predators.

PEERS

Incorporating people from your physical environment into your online social community may seem like a natural extension. However, a recent study by Robin Dunbar of Oxford University shows that most of your online friends are in fact not your “real friends”. In fact, cyberbullying is more likely to come from a teen’s peers than from internet trolls or strangers. Exceptions occur in cases where aggressive “strangers” were exposed as peers operating under fake accounts/names.

Online communication platforms are efficient, but “the lack of face-to-face interactions makes it difficult to invest in a relationship for maintaining an essential level of ‘emotional intensity.’” This lack of empathy and selective sharing on social media garners a feeling of detachment, which empowers cyberbullying. October is also National Bullying Prevention Month. Cyber Security can be integral in bullying prevention. Both campaigns intersect, working towards the same goal: safety.

To learn more about how we keep kids safe online, visit our website:

Learn more about our Built-In Cyberbullying Detection

Why Web Filtering is Integral in the Fight Against Hate Speech

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The current situation

Hate speech is speech that vilifies a group of people based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, gender, etc. It is an undeniable part of this country’s past and a threat to our future. While many Americans urge acceptance and inclusion, others vocalize prejudice and animosity. Our current leadership explicitly condones such disparaging remarks through their own practice.

People tend to repeat what they hear and see, especially children. And through social media, especially now, such remarks are more prevalent – reaching people across the country. Its impact does not go unnoticed. There have been reports of children bullying their classmates on the basis of race, invoking the current President’s name to validate their claims. Bullying is not only in the classroom, but online as well.

Unfortunately, social media as a medium seems to trivialize all content it transmits (everything from serious tragedy to harmful memes) and the informal culture causes us to forget the consequence of our actions online. While teachers are working to create a safe and tolerant environment on campus, physical limitations weaken their efforts when it comes to the online environment.

How web filtering can help

Traditionally, educators and parents saw web filtering only as a way to protect children from pornographic content, malware, and phishing. However, web filtering can also aid schools in fostering an inclusive learning community.

With the right web filter, schools can catch instances of cyberbullying and hate speech. Using Machine Learning algorithms, a web filter will find instances of cyberbullying and alert administrators and parents – allowing schools to resolve conflict immediately and encourage the conversation of acceptance outside of school walls.

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How to Use Technology to #EndCyberbullying

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Bullying is not a new phenomenon, but the recent proliferation of social media harassment merits its own name. Cyberbullying is unique in that aggressors can be safely situated behind a screen in their own homes, while victims are subject to its effects at school, at home, and everywhere in between. It is pervasive and relentless, as what is posted online can resurface anytime.

Although cyberbullying is a direct result of increased device usage, we can use technology to our advantage to prevent, detect, and act against cyberbullying.

Prevent

Common Sense Media introduced Common Sense Education’s K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum to help educators and school administrators teach proper online behavior, digital citizenship best practices, and educate students on the consequences of cyberbullying. The curriculum includes eight modules ranging from Privacy & Security to Cyberbullying & Digital Drama to Self-Image & Identity.

They have created engaging online student interactive games – “digital games to tackle real-world dilemmas” – for grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 to instill good technology habits. This toolkit is free and available to everyone online via Downloadable PDFs, Nearpod, and iBooks.

ReThink Words, created by student Trisha Prabhu, is a patent-pending software that 1) uses context-sensitive filtering technology to determine if a post may be harmful and 2) asks the user to reconsider posting the potentially damaging message. Research shows that 93% of the time, students do not follow through with the post after being asked to ReThink.

Detect

Our own sentiment-analysis based technology – Auditor by Securly– uses Natural Language Processing & Artificial Intelligence algorithms to detect any signs of harassment or self-harm in Gmail. Through Delegated Administration, we then directly alert school guidance counselors and principals of suspicious student online activity. Parents are notified ASAP with email reports and through the Parent Portal.

This technology serves a dual-purpose: eliminating bullying and intervening in self-harm/suicide cases. The two facets are related by a causal relationship termed “Cyberbullicide” by the American Public Health Association. Mark Nelson, IT Admin of Romeo Community Schools, remarks, “Of the many features distinguish Securly, none are so important as Sentiment Analysis.  We have contacted school counselors four times to make them aware of alarming posts by teenagers, so they could intervene with students and parents.  The avoidance of a single tragedy with one of our students makes Sentiment Analysis invaluable.”

Act

Using STOPit!, students can anonymously report cyberbullying in real-time – empowering them to stand up for themselves and their peers. Students can send photos, videos, or screenshots as evidence of cyberbullying through two-way anonymous messaging to school administration. The app also includes access to a 24-hour crisis center.

In India, a new anti-cyberbullying initiative revolves around a single hashtag: #IamTrolledHelp. This policy allows victims of cyberbullying to use this hashtag or send an email reporting cases of online harassment; the government then investigates each case. The Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, started this new protocol in response to the climbing cyberbullying rates aimed at women and children. For example, singer Chinmayi Sripaada was bombarded with threats of rape and violence – her case led to India’s first arrests for cyberbullying.

U.S.-based Taruna Aswani used Facebook to out her international blackmailer, publicly posting screenshots of emails she received that threatened to leak nudes and intimate content if she did not perform sexual acts for him. She is now working with the cyber crime deputy commissioner to track down the hacker, and has received hundreds of messages from other girls thanking her for inspiring them to speak out against their bullies.

Get involved during National Cyberbullying Prevention Month and join the movement to #EndBullying today! To find out more information on bullying prevention, check out the following resources:

<li>STOMP Out Bullying

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Freedom of Speech = Freedom to Bully?

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In 2014, Michele Carter told Conrad Roy to reenter a carbon-monoxide-filled car and proceed with his suicide attempt. She was charged with involuntary manslaughter as text messages surfaced, ones sent by her encouraging Roy to end his own life.

Her defense claimed that the texts were a form of free speech, protected by the First Amendment: “…verbal conduct can never overcome a person’s willpower to live, and therefore cannot be the cause of suicide…”

The court ruled against her favor, yet a broader debate surrounding Freedom of Speech and its implications for state cyberbullying laws remains unresolved. In compliance with the Child Internet Protection Act, various states have proposed making cyberbullying a criminal offense in order to prevent cyberbullying in school. However, some argue that this infringes upon a student’s First Amendment right, especially if the bullying occurs off-campus during non-school hours.

This past June, the North Carolina Supreme Court repealed its 2009-enacted cyberbullying law after reopening the case of a formerly convicted high school student. The court decided that the law –one prohibiting the use of computers to post (or maliciously encourage others to post) compromising information online– was too broad and violated the Freedom of Speech. Courts are now using a “disruption test” to assess the magnitude of cyberbullying accusations, measuring the extent that a student’s actions impacted the school environment.


“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Essentially, lawmakers are struggling to identify 1) when “free speech” becomes a threat to someone else’s life and 2) at what point can lawful action be taken. Texas Senator José Menéndez proposed new legislation called “David’s Law”, named after a victim of cyberbullying who later committed suicide. Menéndez claims cyberbullying is distinct from free speech and therefore should be criminalized, citing, “The Supreme Court has ruled our right to free speech is regulated by boundaries. You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater… can’t make threats against someone’s life and defend it as free speech.”

17 states have criminalized cyberbullying as part of their cyberbullying prevention initiatives. In the meantime, national organizations are working ceaselessly to reduce the frequency of cyberbullying by educating students about proper online behavior. 

The freedom of speech does not justify bullying. Find out more about the movement against cyberbullying here.

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The 4 Main Types of Cyberbullying Across the Country

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16% of kids have cyberbullied their peer(s), reports a recent Cyberbullying Research Center study. More often than not, these bullies are motivated by their own anger and frustration. Technology provides refuge and anonymity for such behavior, empowering kids to do and say things they would otherwise not do in person.

From our analysis of 500K social media posts, we found that the majority of aggressive online posts could be broken into the four main categories listed below in order from most frequent to least frequent:

1. Namecalling/Harassment

  • “you’re a f***ing rat close yo mouth and your legs no disrespect tho.”
  • “yea you should hate yourself. as you f***ing should stupid hoe.”

2. Relationship Drama

  • “funny af how you talk s**t about my best friend right in front of me making it seem like yall wanna talk to me… there’s no need for yall to be talking s**t behind her back.  claiming that you ain’t fake and s**t.. bitch f***ing please. you f***ing snake.”
  • “@—— you can go f**k yourself and leave @—— alone…you obviously are jealous. she’s much nicer and better than your lying fake a**.”
  • “@—— stupid mother f***ing dumb a** b***h why don’t you just go have sex with some girls since you’re “famous”

3. Body Image/Looks

  • “if you’re a whore or look like one and you end up showing your slutty-ness and it winds up on my timeline…i will call you a whore and then unfriend you. with no regrets”
  • “she looks like a f***ing jew to me”

4. Threats

  • “fools gonna get beat today. i tried to warn people about lying, they just don’t want to believe me. ha. don’t f**k around with me…”

We also found that certain characteristics differ geographically across the US: students on the East Coast seem to be far more aggressive and confrontational on social media. Namecalling/Harassment posts occur about 14% more on the East Coast than on the West Coast.

Although the reason for this is unclear, it may be due to the lack of a national cyberbullying law. No federal law directly addresses bullying; legislation was introduced in 2009, but no action has been taken since. However, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (2000) requires schools to 1) monitor their students’ online behavior and 2) outline a plan to educate students on proper online behavior. Thus, each state has created their own laws and preventative measures to discourage bullying and online harassment.

Cyberbullying Laws Across the Country

The majority of West Coast states include cyberbullying in their bullying laws, while many East Coast and Midwest states do not. Georgia, Kentucky, and Nebraska have proposed including cyberbullying measures in their current policies.

State bullying laws, updated January 2016

Includes “cyberbullying” Does not include “cyberbullying”
Arkansas

California

Connecticut

Florida

Hawaii

Illinois

Kansas

Louisiana

Maine

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Missouri

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

Oregon

Rhode Island

Tennessee

Utah

Virginia

Washington

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Colorado

Delaware

Idaho

Indiana

Iowa

Maryland

Mississippi

Montana

New Jersey

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Pennsylvania

South Carolina

South Dakota

Texas

Vermont

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming

For more information on cyberbullying laws across the country, the Cyberbullying Research Center released a brief review which compares bullying laws by state.  A more comprehensive explanation of each state’s policy can be found on stopbullying.gov.

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A Cry for Help: in 140 Characters or Less

 “If I die tonight, would anyone cry?”  Amber Cornwell published this post soon before completing suicide in December of 2014.

Social media is the modern-day soliloquy; kids are now more likely to lament emotional distress or seek help via online platforms. Through Machine Learning techniques, we found that Twitter was the overwhelming favorite for kids to vent emotions: 71% of flagged activity* are tweets. However, it is through these same platforms that cyberbullying occurs.

30% of flagged posts* are direct forms of cyberbullying. Interestingly, ⅓ of all students have experienced some type of online harassment.  Teens exposed to cyberbullying are 2.4 times more likely to entertain suicidal notions. Certainty of this causal relationship is demonstrated by terms like “cyberbullicide”, as used in an American Public Health Association study.

Social media interactions can provide a look into a teen’s life, yet red flags are largely ignored due to the casual nature of online culture. Mean comments and threats are posted online all the time; this problem has proliferated into a cyberbullying epidemic, one that large social media platforms are struggling to mitigate. Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, admitted, “We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years.”

 

 

Common Sense Media’s “5 Ways to Stop Cyberbullies”. Although this is a great guide for handling cyberbullying, there is a larger issue that still needs to be solved.

 

Amber was a victim of cyberbullying. So was Thomas Mullaney, and many others who decided to take their own life as a result. To reduce teen suicide and depression, we must eliminate a major root cause: bullying.

This month is National Bullying Prevention Month, a movement to stop bullying and cyberbullying once and for all. To learn more about how to get involved in with your local community’s bullying prevention initiatives, click here.

*Of 500,000 social media posts, 1 in 50 posts were flagged for suspicious behavior related to drugs, profanity, cyberbullying, threats, depression, or suicide.

 

For more information on cyberbullying prevention, sign up below:

October is National Bullying Prevention Month

This year marks the 10th anniversary of National Bullying Prevention Month. Since 2006, the PACER National Bullying Prevention Center has launched nationwide campaigns to combat bullying during the month of October. In 2010, they introduced plans for cyberbullying prevention. Through community building events and education initiatives, they work to eliminate the notion that bullying is a “rite of passage” that makes kids tougher – as it actually results in devastating consequences such as decreased self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and suicide.

In the past, PACER has partnered with companies like Disney and TLC to build upon their national campaign and amplify its message across multiple platforms to different age groups.

“You are Braver, Stronger and Smarter Than You Think” was a public service announcement produced for National Bullying Prevention Month by Disney in 2015.

How to Get Involved

PACER and community partners host events across the country throughout the month of October. “Run, Walk, Roll, Against Bullying” takes place in 12 different cities, and the symbolic “Unity Day” will be held on Wednesday, October 19.

They also provide online resources, including Classroom and Community Toolkits. Teachers and parents are encouraged to utilize these materials to promote conscientious behavior among their students and foster a supportive environment.

Multiple organizations work in tandem to eradicate bullying and its consequences. Stomp Out Bullying, the national anti-bullying and cyberbullying prevention organization, created Blue Shirt Day: World Day of Bullying Prevention which asks communities to stand in solidarity for anti-bullying by wearing blue clothing on the first Monday of each October.

To find out more information on bullying prevention and how you can join the movement, check out the following resources:

 

Can Social Media Save Kids’ Lives?

The following is taken from our new whitepaper Can social media save kids’ lives?. We analyzed over a half million social media posts from over 300 school districts in 2016 to amass the data included in this paper.

social media, cyberbullying, school, suicide, parent

The majority of research centered around cyberbullying & teen emotional distress occurs after the fact, relying on student anecdotes and surveys.  By contrast, we are able to gather information in real time.  Our position as a network-based filter gives us unique access to such data, allowing us to find truths embedded within students’ own social media posts alone.

Our data shows that 30% of all flagged posts are a direct form of cyberbullying. From our previous study, we found that at least ⅓ of all students have been harassed online.  This is a growing problem that parents and schools cannot ignore, especially given its fatal consequences.

Across the country, teen suicide numbers have soared.  An American Public Health Association study actually coined the term “cyberbullicide” to explain the causal relationship and correlated death toll.  Suicide is now the third leading cause of death among middle school children, and the second am
ong young adults ages 15-24.

As social media is the prime avenue for cyberbullying, it’s reasonable for schools to wish to block social media as a preventative measure.  However, after extensive research, we believe social media can actually serve as the tool to save a child’s life.   

 Nowadays, teens increasingly turn to social media to seek counsel or vent emotional distress. This includes warning sides of high-risk behavior like suicide and self-harm. In fact, the average school district faces the threat of teen suicide about every two weeks.

Actual student posts:

  • “Life sucks and i wanna jump off a bridge.”
  • “If i kill myself no one would notice.”
  • “I am legitimately contemplating suicide and i legitimately want to kill myself.”

Using Machine Learning techniques, we are able to detect negative sentiment like the above in social media posts.  We then send high confidence alerts to the 1) school district IT admin 2) guidance counselors and 3) parents of the child, so that students receive the proper care and attention.

Already, our technology has helped schools prevent potential tragedy. Mark Nelson, IT Admin of Romeo Community schools, says: “Of the many features distinguishing Securly, none are so important as Sentiment Analysis.  We have contacted school counselors four times to make them aware of alarming posts by teenagers, so they could intervene with students and parents.  The avoidance of a single tragedy with one of our students makes Sentiment Analysis invaluable.”

This same technology can also detect for instances of cyberbullying, a major cause of suicide and depression.  Through social media, we plan to not only stop tragedy – but also eliminate the causes of such emotional distress.

For access to the full whitepaper including more information on student online behavior trends, click here.

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

The Key to A Successful Online Safety Policy

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70.3% of students we surveyed did not know what web filter their school was using, if at all.  ALL of the students we interviewed were unaware as to what sites were prohibited on their school’s network.  Teachers themselves are often surprised and irritated by blocks to YouTube clips planned for class lecture.  Both teachers and students feel that they waste time trying to navigate their school’s web filter.  The solution is simple: greater transparency.

Transparency may seem counterintuitive; isn’t the whole point of web filtering to screen content?  Well, teaching the school community about their web filtering system will optimize internet safety features and help students/teachers maximize web resources.  Students seek knowledge of the categories of websites that are blocked, which they feel would preempt incidents of being surprised upon being served a blocked page.  In fact, majority of students understand the rationale and support the concept behind web filters and safety measures that schools have put into place.

By the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), schools are required to 1) employ technology protection measures and 2) educate students on appropriate online behavior.  The latter should:

In addition, IT Admins should notify teachers of protocol for whitelisting sites.  Each process is different depending on the specific web filter.  Most school web filters require approval from the IT Admin, others allow teachers to temporarily whitelist a website using Google Apps for Education.

This simple tip should help schools safely integrate technology into the classroom!  For more information on creating a CIPA-compliant Internet Safety Policy, check this out!


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8 Reasons Students Like Securly Web Filtering

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The following are real student responses from an international survey we conducted during Summer 2015.

1. “You don’t get rude ads or viruses.”

Pop-ups and pseudo-content are not only annoying, but also often times dangerous.  Online aggressors specifically target children, enticing them to click on attractive advertisements or links leading to viruses.  YouTube launched “YouTube Kids” in response to this problem as an addition to their existing safety setting, YouTube Restrictive Mode.  But what about the rest of the internet?  Web filtering helps keep students safe online and protects from “intrusive viruses, malware, and ransomware”.

2. “It keeps us safe from other people that we don’t know.”

Students are protected from dicey websites and chat forums notorious for online predators.  This, combined with social media privacy settings – such as regulating who can comment on a post/video– reduces the risk of your child encountering internet users with malicious intent.

See the Parental Control Quick Guide for more information on keeping youth safe online.

3. “It protects people from cyberbullying.”

Web filtering can block social media sites where cyberbullying frequently occurs, but in today’s tech-integrated environment these sites are important for school-wide communication; and thus, counterproductive to restrict.  Securly includes a Bullying and Self Harm Detection feature with sentiment analysis that alerts parents and admins of possible cyberbullying/indications of harmful behavior.

4. “A big thing I agree with is stopping us from getting sidetracked…it can be hard in class when we are on the internet to not get distracted.”

Admins can set time limits on specific sites to help keep students on track and productive; in fact, over 50% of students admitted to being sidetracked while working on school assignments whether on or offline.  Another student remarked, “Web filtering is good because if things weren’t filtered, personally I wouldn’t have done as well in school.  I would be more interested in talking to my friends over social media while they were in different classes.”

5. “It’s extremely useful to monitor and prevent younger kids from seeing all that the internet has to offer.”

Web filtering first and foremost protects children from violence, porn, and other unsavory content.  Students (especially with younger siblings) agree that this is a necessary and useful tool in preventing premature exposure.  Securly’s powerful web filtering technology filters out unsuitable material and language, and even goes as far as disabling YouTube comments on a child’s account.

6. “It provides an environment to practice hacking and getting around the rules.”

Definitely a different perspective, but still a valid point!  Apparently, persistent students are learning about the technology behind the filter… looks like web filtering is also creating future developers.

7. “It provides safety throughout the whole school for everyone.  And as well as making us children feel safe whilst using the internet, it also helps parents to know their child is safe whilst browsing.”

Securly offers an interactive comprehensive report which complies top accessed categories, websites, and key search phrases by kids.  Admins are able to see how students are using devices at home versus in school.  It’s quite simple for admins to make changes to the filter settings on the user dashboard.

In addition, Securly’s cloud-based web filtering also extends to the home.  Schools with 1:1 programs are able protect their students anywhere.

8. “It stops anything that may be dangerous from happening.”

Some students have such faith in the power of web filtering!  Learn more about Securly web filtering features here.


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