Like many things that have moved from “offline” to “online”, threatening situations faced by our kids (or ourselves) come not just physically, but through the digital realm as well.
In school, a child might not have experienced being dragged aside by classmates and taunted during recess, but could well have faced humiliation by others through social media or a chat messaging group.
Afraid of consequences when they raise an alarm or try to seek help, victims of online threats may often keep mum and suffer in silence. This could result in stress, trauma and an adverse effect on their well-being.
Here are some ways families can deal with online threats, in particular cyberbullying and online identity theft.
#1 Recognise and respond to cyberbullying
In 2014, a survey conducted by the Touch Cyber Wellness revealed that 1 in 5 primary school students (and 1 in 3 secondary school students) had experienced cyberbullying. This could mean anything from receiving vicious comments on their social media page to having their photos defaced or “photoshopped” distastefully and circulated online to being ostracised as a result of false rumours.
Parents should teach children to recognise the signs of cyberbullying and encourage them to seek support from adults when something happens.
=>Read more about the common forms of cyberbullying here.
Assess the extent of harm and try to stem the harassment from continuing. If the bullying involves students in the same school, report the incident to the school authorities so that they can deal with the known cyberbully. But when the culprits’ identities are not known, try to take your child out of the situation, say by blocking the senders of email/SMS/instant messaging harassments or deregister your child’s account from a particular online forum or social media.
#2 Educate about online identity theft
Apart from being mindful of online harassment, children need to be taught to practise safe surfing. While trolling the vast Internet space, kids may unwittingly stumble upon scam websites or click on malicious email attachments that could compromise security, such as by gaining unauthorised access to photos stored in their computers and then posting them on undesirable websites. Their online IDs and passwords may also get hacked and exploited. Worse still, if the compromised computer contains important details such as your bank account or credit card information, you could suffer financial losses too.
To prevent incidences of online identity theft, teach your child to:
Use strong passwords and to change them regularly. If possible, be informed of their passwords until they reach an age when they can be entrusted with them independently.
Never download content from dubious websites or open email attachments from strangers as these could contain viruses and malware.
Learn to be prudent about sharing content such as photos, family details, addresses or contact numbers online freely.
#3 Implement safeguards and protection
For better peace of mind, you can also put in place measures that can minimise threats. Just like how you’d use an umbrella, wear a raincoat or stay indoors as much as possible to shield yourself from a thunderstorm, putting in place defences and limiting access are practical ways to safeguard your child from threats lurking in the digital space.
Set curfews to restrict the number of hours your child can spend online, especially during schooldays or exam periods; be aware of the websites that your child visits and “follow” them on social media so you know what he or she posts online.
Install an anti-virus software that scans your device for potential online identity theft and phishing scams, blocks fraudulent websites, enables browsing without being tracked, and safeguards your privacy on social media.
#4 Get insured!
Don’t let online identity thieves, trolls and bullies spoil your fun. There is now an insurance plan that aims to keep your family safe against the costly consequences of online threats. Introduced by DBS and underwritten by Chubb Insurance Singapore Limited, CyberSmart offers access to one or more of the following, as deemed appropriate depending on the incident:
Initial counselling session
Additionally, where appropriate and in accordance with the policy terms and conditions, you will be given access to legal advice and/or trauma counselling by Chubb’s panel of providers, up to the policy limits.
You will also be reimbursed, up to the policy limits and where appropriate, for additional expenses incurred by you as a result of cyber-bullying and/or online identity theft, and any loss of income suffered by you when rectifying online identity theft.