Dr Rachel O’Connell is an internet safety expert and talks about how we can all prevent cyberbullying.
Internet safety transcript:
Hi, my name is doctor Rachel O’Connell, and I’ve been invited by the ReachOut team to talk today about a number of issues including cyberbullying. Which is a really big issue in Ireland at the moment.
Why do people cyberbully?
People engage in bullying for a variety of reasons and generally speaking people who engage in bullying one another are known to each other. So it’s done in a class, in a school kind of environment or people in your local neighborhood hanging out in cliques or gangs. It can be one individual who is bullying or it can be a group of individuals bullying another individual.
Bullies can be victims
The characteristics of it is that it’s repeated and hurtful behavior that can involve physical or psychological harm. And in fact, interesting research has shown that often bullies are themselves victims and victims can become bullies. So it is quite a complex set of behaviors in this set of psychological issues that require sensitive intervention techniques to actually manage it successfully. There’s plenty of research out there that says both bullies and victims can suffer from psychosocial harmful effects of bullying.
What can people do to prevent bullying?
Well there are a number of things parents, and indeed teachers, and the extended family can do to protect children and young people from bullying. The most important measure is to ensure that you’ve got open lines of communication with your child, so that they feel comfortable and you advise them that they can feel comfortable to come and tell you about anything that’s happening online. It’s really important for children to feel supported. And for parents to make sure that they don’t threaten to withdraw internet access, or take away a mobile phone, because they’re cross or angry with some sorts of behavior that are going on. That is probably the single most effective piece of advice you can give.
Make sure you’re engaged
Secondly, if your child is using a social networking site, make sure you’re engaged in the process, in terms of understanding who’s on their friends list, and giving them advice about appropriate behavior. How you behave online should be very similar to how you behave offline so showing respect for others and also, making sure your child feels comfortable to tell you, and indeed ask your advice, about how to manage a situation that may seem like it’s getting out of hand.
Level of negotiation and communication
One of the most important things when they’re growing up is to learn about how to manage interpersonal relationships. Sometimes, arguments and drama will come up. And rather than overreacting and perceiving every sort of slight or every sort of argument as bullying, to try and think about talking reasonably about how to manage the situation. Just as you would in a real world sort of circumstance. I think it’s important for both parents and children to feel comfortable about having that level of negotiation and communication.
Would making people accountable help?Anonymity
It’s very important to recognise that, when you’re interacting online, each time your computer or your mobile device connects to the internet, it’s allocated a unique IP address. This can be tracked back to the device or the computer that you’ve used. The question of anonymity is one of levels. So, bullying usually happens between people who are known to each other, and research tells us that children and young people generally in their social networks are connected to people that they know in the real word so it’s their classmates or the people they hang around with during hobbies etc.
Real identity policies
In those instances, the real name and real identity policies that have been implemented by sites like Facebook and Google mean that it’s clear who’s been doing the bullying in many instances. In those instances where the bully has set up a fake Facebook page, so it seems on the surface it seems impossible to determine who exactly is sending the bullying messages, there is one to give to those people. In face, their IP address will link back to the device that they’ve used, and the internet service provider will have the name address of the bill payer for that device. Now, it does take getting law enforcement involved to actually secure that information, and it’s for law enforcement to decide whether or not the behavior warrant such a reaction.
The other concern, that is coming up lately is for apps in terms of chat apps and photo apps like poke and snap chat, where you able to photo flash, where you are able to send a photo and it self destructs within one to ten seconds. There’s a lot of fear in the media and panic about how this might escalate the levels of cyber bullying. But there is one thing to remember, you can always take a photo or a screen-grab of the offensive photo, before it self destructs. So in fact, there doesn’t need to be this much panic and concern about these issues, if you’re wise enough to understand how to take screen grabs of your phone.
Could the industry be doing more to combat cyberbullying?
In fact the internet industry, and the mobile industry is doing a great deal in this area. They’re producing a lot of booklets and guides for example. Vodafone has produced a magazine called “Digital Parenting”. Disney has produced one called “The Wonderful World of the Web”, there will be links to these resources underneath this video. So there is a great deal that the industry is doing. They’re are also working hard and collaboratively in a cross industry manner to develop resources for teachers, like “Teach today.eu”. So, industry is doing its part in preventing, or working towards minimising the harm, and making sure the people have the means by which they can report abuse.
There is also a lot for schools to do, and for parents to do, in terms of helping children to understand and equipping them with the skills and knowledge and expertise to navigate these tricky interpersonal interactions and, particularly when they escalate into bullying and negative behavior that can have very harmful outcomes.
1. Vodaphone “Digital Parenting” handbook
2. Disney “The Wonderful World of the Web” handbook