By Praveen Kannan and Anna Strokolyst The Hotspot Shield team believes the internet should be open and secure …
Online identities give users a certain level of anonymity when it comes to cyberbullying, but parents and law enforcement are using the very technology bullies abuse to catch the cyber-tormentors in the act. With digital detective work in mind, here are a number of ways modern tech is putting an end to cyberbullying.
Look for Signs of Bullying
Cyberbullying can take on many forms, such as harassment and humiliation, so it’s important that parents teach their children the warning signs of bullying. In most cases, if your child is a victim of cyberbullying, then the signs will likely be obvious in terms of your child’s emotional reaction and the evidence on screen.
But, there are instances where the victim feels they should conceal the bullying because of feelings of embarrassment.
The first step in catching cyberbullies is to report their activities, so it’s important to encourage your child to not only tell you when they’re being bullied, but also record the bullying attempts either as screenshots or in hard copy.
Whether it’s a humiliating message on Facebook or a threatening text, having solid evidence of bullying is the first step in stopping it.
Tell School Administrators
Cyberbullies are oftentimes people your child knows from school. In cases such as this, you need to report the bully to school administrators yourself. By calling the school or reporting the issue to administrators in person, you’ll remedy the problem faster than trying home remedies like blocking the bully from your child’s social accounts or ignoring the bullying altogether.
If the bully is anonymous, then it’s important to ask your child if there’s anything they recognize about the online harassing. Chances are your child only has one bully, so their cyberbullying attempts are probably similar to their bullying at school. Since you won’t have any hard evidence of an anonymous bully, you can request that school administrators keep an eye on the student in question based on your child’s assumption.
Inform Law Enforcement
When bullying is used to violently threaten or stalk your child, you need to get law enforcement involved as soon as possible. Teaching your child to look for signs of cyberbullying and reporting the issue to school administrators are all great remedies that involve the use of technology, but law enforcement can really put technology to work to track down bullies.
In fact, in a number of towns across the country, law enforcement officials are actually becoming cyber-detectives in order to find anonymous cyberbullies. For example, police officers are joining forces with teen volunteers to find cyberbullies on social sites like Facebook. Once found, officials send cease and desist messages informing bullies and their parents that further harassment will lead to prosecution.
Monitor Online Activity
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to monitor your child’s online activities whether there’s a bullying situation or not. By simply keeping tabs on your child’s social networking and smartphone activity, you can stop any bullying attempts before they have a chance to emotionally harm your child.
For starters, request that your children give you the passwords to all of their social accounts. This way you can occasionally check their activities and make sure there isn’t any harassment taking place. If you have a teen who’s reluctant to give up their privacy, then start your own social profile and friend your child. This way you can still keep tabs on any cyberbullying without needing full-access to your child’s account.
Use Tracking Software
If your child is experiencing cyberbullying from anonymous sources — or from multiple sources — then spy-tracking software might help. There’s plenty of spy-tracking software on the market that’s as thorough as providing you the bully’s IP address and, in some cases, their name.
There’s also spy-tracking software available for your child’s smartphone, which is instrumental in tracking down cyberbullies who send threatening texts from blocked VoIP phone numbers over the Internet. If you choose to use spy-tracking software, make sure you verify that the individual you trace is, in fact, the bully in question before taking further action.
Report Activities to the Service Provider
Cyberbullying violates the terms of service with almost all social sites, which means it’s your child’s right to report instances of harassment to the service provider. If you go this route, you’ll likely need proof of the bullying activity within the social site in question, which is why documenting the threats is helpful.
Most social media sites have “safety centers” where users can report any and all things that violate the site’s terms of service. In addition, if your child’s bully is anonymous, the service provider can track down individuals based on user names or avatars. If the service provider deems the bullying attempts life threatening, the site can ban the user’s account as well as report the activities to law enforcement.
Take Advantage of Anti-Bullying Apps
Much like the spy-tracking software mentioned above, there are a number of anti-bullying apps available to help you catch your child’s cyberbully in the act. Some of the more popular anti-bullying apps on the market send parents alerts when specific bully related keywords are sent to their child’s smartphone.
For example, the GoGoStat iPhone app sends alerts to parents when their child receives bullying messages via text or through Facebook. It even includes a “panic button” that forwards the message to law enforcement if the message is life threatening.
Prevention is the best way to stop cyberbullying, which is why more and more bullying prevention apps are becoming available. The Destructive Issues app for Apple devices provides real-life examples of many bullying issues teens and younger audiences face in school and in social circles. The app describes the different types of bullying as well as how parents can help their children tackle the issue.
If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, then the technological solutions above in combination with the appropriate actions can help end the situation before it escalates.