October 22, 2019

National Bullying Prevention Month: Online Safety and You

Written by valeria

Online Safety

When we were little, bullying was a term most commonly associated with either vocal or physical harassment, all within the range of a local schoolyard. Not much has changed since —  except for the range. In today’s modern age, bullying is something that can happen anywhere anytime, for the simple reason that we are available anywhere anytime through our online presence. According to Cyber bullying statistics from the i-SAFE foundation:

  • Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.

  • More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyberthreats online.

  • Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.

So for National Bullying Prevention Month, we’ve scrounged up all our best tips and pieces of advice for leading an online life that is safe, friendly, and of course- still fun.

Creating Online Accounts

Short of looking up the entire history of Star Wars on Wikipedia, everything else that you do online will most likely require that you first create an account. Cyber bullying can take many forms, including identity theft. So when creating an account, it is important to take preventative measures to ensure that it remains secure. For example, when creating your password, make sure it meets these requirements:

1. Does not contain any personal information (your name, birthdate, etc)2. Make it long — minimum 8 characters3. Use a combination of numbers, symbols, and uppercase and lowercase letters4. Make it random, avoiding any common phrases5. Don’t reuse a password

Another likely obvious but sometimes crucial step to remember is the email address. You may be tempted to put in a “fake” address to make the sign-up easier, or to avoid having more personal information attached to the account, but oftentimes, this makes it easier for others to get into your account and keep you out. With a real (verified) email address, you have the power to send a password reset link to yourself, prove ownership of an account, and to make any significant changes.

Chatting Online

We’ve talked about this briefly in our “Back to School: New Kicks, New Tricks” post, but it is one of the most important things to know about the online world. The greatest advances the internet has given us is the ability to make and maintain personal connections in real-time. But how do you know if those connections are real? Well, there’s a simple list of Do’s and Don’ts to help with that:

online dos and don'ts

Getting Harassing or Threatening Messages

Of course, even with the best preventative measures, sometimes those unwanted messages can still slip through. In those cases, we recommend that you become familiar with the app’s terms of use. Most apps nowadays include a “block” option right in the conversation itself, and some (like Instagram) even have a “report” option, where the account/profile that is harassing you may be taken down if found to be violating the app’s terms of use.

If the message you receive is threatening in nature, contact with the legal authorities is recommended. They will be able to work with the app’s abuse team to gather more information on the account in question and take more lasting action than a simple messaging block.

So we get it: The world is not perfect. Not even when it’s online. But with a little help, it can be better.

If you find yourself needing more help than these quick tips, remember that a phone number holds a lot of power. Especially when it’s free, and easy to use to call a friend, family member, or even a hotline:

National Bullying Prevention Center : http://www.pacer.org/bullying/

Stop Bullying: https://www.stopbullying.gov/prevention/index.html

American Cyber Tip Line: http://www.missingkids.org/gethelpnow/cybertipline

Canadian Cyber Tip Line: https://www.cybertip.ca/app/en/