Raise a United Voice Against Cyberbullying: Stop Cyberbullying Day

What does Zoe Saldana have in common with Sonam Kapoor, other than the fact that they are both renowned actors? They have both faced bullying online. And due to the anonymity and sense of security offered by the internet, not just celebs but even ordinary people like you and I could be subjected to cyberbullying.

Isn’t it time we stand together to put an end to it and say ‘Stop Cyberbullying’?

The digital world offers everyone a chance to connect with people, and voice their opinions. Unfortunately, some people misuse this privilege to harass others, victims could suffer from emotional disturbances or in extreme cases even fatalities.

Our children are the first generation of digital citizens and often, their posts and online actions make them easy targets for bullies so as parents, we need to guide them on social media etiquette, and also explain the threats of the virtual world to enable them to handle adverse situations.

Consider this:

  • According to the McAfee 2017 study “New Family Dynamics in a Connected World,” 49% of Indian parents have shown concerns about their child potentially interacting with a social predator or cybercriminal online.
  • The 2015 McAfee Teen Tween Technology report states that 43% of the children active on social media claim to have witnessed cruel behaviour on social networks. Almost one out of four (22%) of those active on social media claim to have been the victim of cyberbullying themselves

Are parents aware of cyberbullying? The good news is yes, they are, and most of those surveyed said they have discussed this issue with their children and follow their children on their social media networks. Having said that, there are still many parents who do not believe in monitoring their kids online. Children, especially teens, are quite vulnerable and prone to peer influence. They need guidance on handling cyberbullying and parental support is paramount. A confident child will usually not seek attention or approval among strangers online.  Kids who are bullies also need counselling and guidance, further stressing the need for parental supervision.

Sharing a few tips on creating a safer and inclusive online environment:

  1. Choose your friends with care. It’s easier for rude people and strangers to bully you. Be wary about accepting requests from strangers. Never give out your cell phone number and email address, and never reveal passwords even to close friends.
  2. Mind what you share: What you say and how you say it, makes a difference. Also, keep personal information private. By refusing to use privacy settings, your profile is open to anyone and everyone, which increases the chances of being bullied or personal photos being downloaded and manipulated
  3. Be positive and don’t react: Don’t lose your calm and react- this what cyberbullies want. You should take measures after careful deliberations.
  4. Ignore, block or unfriend those who provoke or humiliate you. Block and report abusers by clicking on the ‘report abuse’ icon. If the issue persists, you can always take help from your parents in resolving the same
  5. If you are cyberbullied, share your experience with people you trust. Unburdening helps you to get good tips and the support proves invaluable to regaining emotional strength. Reach out to your parents or close peers at the first sign of bullying or conflict online.

Quick tips for parents to help them be on the top of things

Talk to your kids, frequently and frankly: This is THE most important thing to do to help you stay aware of what’s happening in your child’s virtual life and for them to feel free to confide in you. You can use role playing with real life situations to help kids learn how to respond to online bullies.

Monitor and mentor kids until they are mature enough to handle online issues on their own.

We are part of the #STOPCYBERBULLYINGDAY campaign because we are committed to a positive and all-inclusive culture in the virtual world. McAfee security solutions like McAfee Total Protection and McAfee LiveSafe offer parental control feature to help parents remotely monitor their kids. This is an excellent way to monitor, guide and keep them safe online.

Raise a united voice against cyberbullying by joining a Twitter campaign on 16th June. Use the hashtag #STOPCYBERBULLYINGDAY to share your views, tips and stories on cyberbullying and mark your solidarity with the movement.

Curbing The Threat Of Fake Accounts

My bubbly teen was so excited the day she found Priyanka Chopra had started following her on Twitter. She was literally hopping around the room, squealing in delight. As a parent and my daughter’s cybersafety guide, I checked her page to confirm and what I saw made me sad but I had to burst her bubble.

No darling, that’s not the real Priyanka Chopra following you but a fake twitter account. See here @priyankachopra ‏, this is her original handle. And see this blue tick – it means Twitter has validated this account to be a genuine one as it usually verifies popular accounts.”

“Why do people create fake accounts then?” ranted the peeved teen, as she angrily blocked the fake handle. (It’s painful to lose a celeb follower on social media you know.)

Why indeed? Why do people create false accounts on social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook? For the same reason why we have fakes/imitations in the real world; someone stands to gain from it, or leverage it to make mischief.

Are the number of fake accounts significant enough to warrant attention and action? It apparently is. According to a research carried out by a graduate student at UCL recently, there are more than 500,000 fake accounts on Twitter alone, for instance, Deepika Padukone’s account (@Deepika_Officia). Fake LinkedIn accounts of company CEOs is a common way to fraud job seekers signing up on the site. Another big fake account source is the duplication of celebrity accounts and hapless fans often end up following the fake account online. These can do major harm by sharing false or inappropriate content. Fake accounts are also created to boost follower counts, share incendiary or dishonest messages, create trending topics, send spam, troll and abuse users, launch scam or phishing attacks or set traps for naïve children.

Fake account creators bank on the intrinsic trusting nature of users that lead them to believe in the authenticity of an account. They leverage this trust to swindle, bully, defame the person or others. So, the thing to do is to be skeptical and vigilant.

Identifying fake accounts on social media:

This is not an easy task by any means, but still we need to be vigilant to avoid risks. Here are a few pointers that will help you stay safer online:

  • Absent: The account does not engage in real-time conversations much
  • Mechanic: Repeats a single message and tags several accounts at random
  • Agenda: Shares false, inappropriate or suspicious content consistently. Sometimes engages in trolling or bullying and apart from it, does not share any tangible storyline or views
  • Inadequate identity: A Twitter handle without a profile image
  • Imposters: New friend requests from existing friends, not to mention those suspicious favors asked online. The moment you come across a duplicate or fake account, flag and report it. That way the sites would know of its existence and take remedial actions. And never be in a hurry to accept friend/follow requests. Take your time. Check the account profile, posts and friend list. Then decide. Do not trust blindly- each new friend or follower need to earn your trust before you interact with the account. Remember to be a true Doubting Thomas when online. STOP. THINK. CONNECT.