CIO

Cyber Bullies and how to stamp them out

Cyberbullying is a big problem in our society with around one in five Australian teens being a victim. Wow, that is huge, we need to find a solution to this issue. Statistics from the Children's eSafety Commission show 19% of young people between the ages of 14 and 17 admit to being harassed or bullied online. Some of these teens never recover taking their own lives, what a devastating loss of young life that is unnecessary.

So, what is cyberbullying exactly? The kid’s helpline website lists it as “Cyberbullying is using technology to bully or hurt someone else” they break it down even further with the following:

Cyberbullying can include:

  • Sending/sharing nasty, hurtful or abusive messages or emails
  • Humiliating others by posting/sharing embarrassing videos or images
  • Spreading rumours or lies online
  • Setting up fake online profiles
  • Excluding others online
  • Repeated harassment and threatening messages (cyberstalking)

These types of cyberbullying are sadly part of normal life for many young people all over the world and it is a distressing problem. Lets really look at the issue, back when I was at school (I graduated high school in 1999 – I know that makes me old now to all of these 14-17-year-old's) cyberbullying was not even a thing, we barely had the internet and computers in our lives let alone all of this social media that we can't live our lives without. I don't even believe we had a computer in our home, I didn't even buy my own until 2000-2001. Things have changed a little since then that's for sure.

If we had a fight with someone at school, it was usually a physical one and would normally last for a day or two and it would be over. If you were being bullied than at least when you left school for the day it was over until you arrived back at school again and you could avoid the bullies and in turn avoid being a victim of their tirades. The bullying was (even if it was still horrible) was isolated to school and could be kept away from your normal out of school lives.

However, in today's society that is not an option. Teenagers are always connected, always interacting via social media and if they are victims of bullying there is no escape, the perpetrators of this harassment can continue to bombard their victims on any platform and shame them publicly without any real recourse for their actions.

Sometimes parents don’t even know what is happening to their children and that isn’t entirely their fault. It can be hard to keep track of what our children do online, let alone if they are being bullied. Victims will in many cases hide this from their loved ones due to embarrassment possibly or just don’t want to admit that they are not liked at school, it can be a real challenge for them.

What can be done about this issue though? There are some good resources on the kid's helpline website that can help parents deal with the issue including reporting the crime to the police but there needs to be a better way to deal with this. Why hasn’t someone created an app that will help control our children's internet and social media access to help reduce or even prevent cyberbullying?

I think it should be possible to do this, an app that can be installed on mobile devices and computers by a parent. The app could then have control of the social media apps on the devices including web browsers. This control could allow the user to block out any content that is not suitable to be viewed by the user of the device but not just limited to this. It should then be able to block and educate users on bad behaviour when they are typing an instant message to someone and when they use language that is offensive or hurtful, the application could be designed to block the user from posting it or sending the messages.

It could stop snapchat from sending graphical or inappropriate materials (not sure how that would work but I am sure it's possible). Block Instagram content or anything else that could be deemed inappropriate. It could educate the user on their behaviour telling them that what they were about to do was inappropriate, why they should reconsider this type of behaviour and notify their parents of the incident so that parents of bullies know what their children are doing.

Don't we all think that whether our children are the bullies or the victims we would want to know about it? This type of behaviour can have severe consequences to developing, fragile young minds and often results in tragic loss of life. I know I would want to know if my child was responsible for bullying others so that I can ensure they understand the full scale and consequences of their actions. I would possibly search out families who have lost someone from bullying and ask them to help my child know what the true costs are. Yes, that may be at the extreme end of response but if it could save lives would we not want to educate our children no matter the side of this horrible behaviour they are on?

Look I get it would be tough to find out that our children are the bad ones in this tale but if they were and we could stop the behaviour before it gets out of hand, it’s a much better result for everyone involved don’t you think?

Someone must be able to create this app that could make this dream solution a true reality? Colin Anson of Pixevity has come up with a solution to give parents control of images taken or collected via schools and allows them to have a choice of whether or not they can be accessed by other parents and the school. Parents have the full control no exceptions. This is possible with a facial recognition capability in the platform that recognises your children and allows that parent to decide on their privacy levels. This is a great looking platform that is started to be used in Australian schools and from what Colin indicated at BrisSEC19 they are also being utilised by overseas schools now as well. If Colin can find a solution to his problem with giving parents control of all images of their children, there needs to be a way that we can create a platform to curb bullying behaviour.

Now I am going to put the challenge out to all of my readers and hopefully anyone in their circles and their circles circles that one of you can make this a reality. I know it can be done and if anyone who thinks they can do it, reach out to me and tell me your idea of how to make it work. Together we can stop unnecessary loss of life, let's make a solution and get it on all our children's devices. I know some of you will say this is an invasion of their privacy, but shouldn’t parents be able to control their children’s activities to ensure they behave in a manner that both society and they deem suitable.

We can ensure that only parents have access to this control via some form of multifactor authentication to prevent the children/user getting around the control and any malicious actors getting control of the platforms for some nefarious reasons (well at least do our best to try and stop it anyway).

So, reach out to your contacts and ask them to reach out to theirs until we find someone who has a way to make this happen (and tell me about it so I can help in any way can) it will be a much better world because if it.

Till next time…