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Online bullying worse than the playground
Wed, 1st Feb 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

A new report from Norton by Symantec has revealed parents worry their children are more likely to be bullied online than on a playground.

Findings from the 2016 Norton Cyber Security Insights Report: Family Edition, sheds light on New Zealand parents' perceptions of cyberbullying and the preventative measures they are putting in place to protect their children.

The report reveals that while 71% of parents in New Zealand allowed their children to access the internet before age 11, many had a wide range of concerns. For example, half (50%) of New Zealand parents believe their children are more likely to be bullied online than on a playground. 

“Children today face threats beyond physical violence or face-to-face encounters,” says Gavin Lowth, vice president, Consumer Business Unit, Asia Pacific and Japan, Symantec.

“Cyberbullying is a growing issue and parents are struggling to identify and respond to this threat. A concern for many parents is that cyberbullying doesn't stop when their child leaves school  as long as your child is connected to a device, a bully can connect to them,” he explains.                                                                                                                                                 

In addition to cyberbullying, parents' chief concerns were that their children might:

  • Download malicious programs or a virus (58%)
  • Disclose too much personal information to strangers (57%)
  • Be lured into meeting a stranger in the physical world (43%)
  • Do something online that makes the whole family vulnerable (40%), embarrassed (30%) or haunts them in the future with job or university prospects (44%)

Parents beginning to step up family cyber security

According to Symantec, the report shows that Kiwi parents are starting to recognise how damaging cyberbullying can be for children and are putting in place preventative measures. For example,

  • 44% enable internet access only in household common areas
  • 43% limit information they post about their children on social profiles and 26% set parental controls through home routers
  • 40% of parents chose to check their child's browser history
  • 36% allow internet access only with parental supervision; 40% review and approve all apps before they are downloaded

The survey revealed that countries where parents had the strictest preventative measures in place, also had the lowest incidence of cyberbullying. Roughly one in six (16%) parents in New Zealand fail to take any action to protect their children online.

“Many parents are still in the dark about how to recognise the signs of cyberbullying and what to do if their children are impacted,” says Lowth.

“The first steps for all parents is to educate themselves about the signs of cyberbullying and learn how to establish an open line of communication with their children,” he says.

Starting a conversation

The Norton report indicates that only 10% of New Zealand parents reported their child was cyberbullied.

While on the surface, this may seem like cyberbullying is not a problem, Lowth says the reality is that many parents don't know how to recognise the signs of cyberbullying, so the problem is likely under-reported.

Additionally, many children choose to remain silent about cyberbullying due to a fear of losing access to devices and the internet, or that parents will embarrass them or exacerbate the problem by contacting the bully's parents or the school, Lowth says.

“If you suspect or are worried about cyberbullying, the first step is communication. Cyberbullying is a sensitive subject, and starting a conversation can be difficult,” he adds.

Signs of Cyberbullying

According to Symantec, some of the signs that indicate a child is being cyberbullied include:

  • They appear nervous when receiving a text or online message or email
  • Habits with devices change. They may begin avoiding their devices or using them excessively
  • They make excuses to avoid going to school
  • They become defensive or secretive about online activity
  • They withdraw from friends and family
  • They have physical symptoms such as trouble sleeping, stomach aches, headaches and weight loss or gain
  • They begin falling behind in school or acting out
  • Their grades start declining
  • They appear especially angry, frustrated or sad, particularly after going online or checking devices
  • They delete social media or email accounts