Harassment (bullying) that takes place in the digital space. Unlike bullying in the real world, online bullying can happen to the child anywhere they go, via social networks, mobile phone as well as while gaming. Unfortunately, not every parent can distinguish common teenage issues from the red flags raised by cyberbullying. A list of signals includes visible physical changes, sudden loss of interest, nervousness, sudden mood changes and snappy answers, pretending to be sick to avoid school, deleted social network profile, abnormal social withdrawal, belongings getting ‘lost’ or damaged and others.
Cyberstalkers use online technology, such as social networks, email, instant messaging, personal data available online, to make inappropriate contact with their victims, such as sending frequent and repeated messages that include extortion or real threats of physical harm. In many cases, cyber and physical stalking interconnects, making it even more dangerous.
A 2014 survey conducted in seven EU countries shows that social networks are the number one online pastime for 63% of the kids polled, followed by watching videos and instant messaging as third.
When someone builds an emotional connection with a child online to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual exploitation, sexual abuse or trafficking. Children and young people can be groomed by a stranger or by someone they know - for example a friend, family member or professional. Parents should also be active and not let their young children browse the web without guidance. Accompanying them in the use of technology from day one helps to ensure children enjoy safe browsing and steer clear of potential dangers. Having a good relationship with your children and at least a basic understanding of technology and security are important foundations for helping them use the internet safely.
“Checking in”, sharing your current location, using geolocation services and adding this kind of information to photo, video or status, has become common practice on social networks. While it might seem harmless for children to use geolocation to let their followers know where they are, sharing their exact location with the whole world isn’t the safest idea. Without the right privacy settings in place, there’s no guarantee that this information will not fall into the hands of cyberbullies, stalkers or even cybercrooks. To avoid inappropriate location sharing, teach your children to keep the GPS function on their mobile phone or tablet turned off. It should only be turned on when needed for directions, when using maps or when your child is sending their location to a friend they’re about to meet. However, even with GPS turned off, there are ways a child can unwittingly disclose their location. A photo from a recognisable location or even a description of the location can be enough to cause problems.