As the Internet becomes more accessible to a wide range of people, the number of online dangers is rising. A scary new trend now emerging is the way kids as young as ten years are being bullied. These attacks happen not on via the bullies’ own accounts, but through fake profiles that are created in the name of the victim which is then used to post embarrassing images or say untrue things about other people. Identity theft bullying is the new terror on the block and helplines are receiving many complaints about it. Some children even called in saying they were self-harming themselves over these incidences, and few had even contemplated ending their lives.
But as the bullies get tough, it is time to get tougher. Kids need to be taught how to handle such situation, and parents serve as the primary educator. Here is some advice on what parents should teach kids facing such a situation:
Understand that this action is intolerable and that they’re at no fault
Children need to understand that such identity theft is not a funny game, but an intolerable offence and something that they should never condone. They should also understand that it isn’t their fault. With the consent of parents, the kid should draft a message conveying that this is their ‘only’ real account (remember how companies do this) and say that they’re not to believe anything else.
Tell their parents/ teacher/ trusted adult about it
Children need to have the confidence to be able to tell their parents or teachers about the identity theft. And parents are encouraged to not react negatively to the inappropriate content that may be present on the account. Remember, it is not your child who has posted these things, nor is it there fault. Unless and until families encourage such open dialogue, it is difficult to control such situations. In fact, parents should start conversations about cybersafety early on, before such incidents happen, so that children are more aware about the issues that may rise. Children are terrified that parents might take away their internet privileges if something bad were to happen, and so this is the main reason they don’t confide in you when issues arise. Be sure to advise your child that removing the internet is not your intention, but rather it is to keep them safe!
Change the passwords and privacy settings
Today many kids, especially girls, tend to share their passwords to “prove their friendship” with others. However such actions can lead to passwords being leaked and it would be difficult to pinpoint who would be using them – or rather misusing them. Kids should also change their passwords and secure their accounts so that their publicly shared pictures can no longer be viewed by the world, as this can open them up to being misused. Parents should teach their children that password sharing is not a sign of friendship and can become dangerous if the friendship turns sour.
Finally, kids should take screenshots of the account in question and share it with the relevant social media site to report the incident. This action will help the media to suspend the account. Today, with the increase in cases of cyberbullying, social media sites are taking stronger measures and prompt action to stop such bullying.