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By- Lisa Frank
When COVID-19 hit, teachers and students got a crash course in video conferencing apps and remote learning. While many schools are now transitioning away from the remote format, technology and education have nonetheless become inseparable. Interaction with others via the internet is now a fact of life both in school and outside of it.
While much of that interaction is healthy, some of it is not. School officials can help stop bullying when it happens in person, but they may not know when it occurs digitally. That leaves parents as the first line of defence against cyberbullying. This year, take some precautions to help protect your kid from this hurtful practise and show them how to interact safely online.
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To protect your child from cyberbullying, your first instinct might be to bar them from the place it so commonly occurs — social media. Your daughter won't fall victim to the Snapchat equivalent of a hit and run if she's not on the platform, right? And your son won't receive nasty comments on his Youtube videos if you don't let him post any — case closed.
Not so fast, Mom and Dad. It would be unrealistic to totally ban your child from social media — it's just too prevalent. You might be surprised how often even schools will use it to keep in touch with their students. Instead of prohibiting access altogether, set up certain times and situations in which they are allowed to get on social media. That way, if cyberbullies show up, you can help your kid defuse the situation and salve any psychic wounds.
You could allow 30 minutes right after school to look at TikTok while in the living room with you, for example. Or they can catch up on their friends' Instagram stories on their tablets. This routine will be both something to look forward to and easy activity to help them transition from their school day.
Of course, there will be times your child won't have supervision, such as when they are hanging out with friends or away from home. For these excursions, a cell phone for kids is perfect for limiting social media access while allowing you to keep in touch. Using a limited device, they won't encounter harmful people online in a place they feel unsafe.
Popular social media platforms may be integral to modern communication, but there are many lesser-known ones with less stringent rules. These include forums like Reddit and 4chan, which at best can be time-wasters and at worst can invite cyberbullying.
If you're looking to minimize your child's attachment to the internet, then it is best to bar access to such sites. It is far more likely that they'll interact with bad actors in communities with such large, diverse reservoirs of content.
Even if your kid is allowed to go on certain websites, there are actions that they should always avoid without permission. These include messaging strangers, sharing personal information, and making purchases, to name just a few. Cyberbullying can move from the virtual world to the real one when a bully knows your home address. Impress upon your child how important it is to keep personal information private.
Respond to your children without judgment so that if they need help, they feel safe coming to you for aidUnsplash
No matter how much you regulate your kid's internet activity, you want to make sure that they understand why. It's important that they don't feel punished or belittled as you strive to protect them. The best way to do this is by being open with your child: The internet can be dangerous at times. They haven't done anything wrong, but you just want to make sure they aren't put in harm's way.
Provide them with a space to air their opinions respectfully even if they disagree with your decisions. If they beg for a Snapchat account and then run into their school's mean girls, resist the urge to say, "I told you so." Respond without judgment so that if they need help, they can feel safe coming to you for aid. A healthy foundation of trust relies on your respect for their needs and vice versa.
Having this support system can mean the difference between their feeling powerless or protected during a harmful interaction. They'll always be sure that you are in their corner should a cyberbully strike. And if one does, it will present an opportunity to discuss rules, their necessities, and their objectives.
While your primary goal is to protect your kid from cyberbullying, as a parent it's also your job to ensure they aren't bullying others. Cyberbullying takes many different forms, and because of this, it's important to teach your child internet etiquette.
Without someone's face in front of us, it is easier to say things to people that we wouldn't in person. Remind them that behind every profile, there is a real person. They may be tempted to join in on an internet pile-on — especially when the "cool kids" at school are doing it. Encourage them to step away (or better yet, come to the other student's defence) in such situations. If your child understands the effect harsh words can have on a person, they'll be more likely to do the right thing.
On the flip side, teach them it's OK to brush the occasional negative comment aside. It is also worth discussing the importance of context — the unemotive nature of text communication can sometimes breed misunderstanding. A simple comment giving someone a suggestion might be interpreted as hostile due to the absence of verbal inflection. While they shouldn't downplay genuinely hurtful language, they shouldn't be quick to take offence, either.
Most social media platforms have implemented anti-bullying features aimed at giving users a sense of control and self-protection. Instruct your child on how to use these tools to curate and preserve their online experience. This includes unfriending, unfollowing, blocking, reporting, hiding, and restricting undesirable accounts and posts when they encounter something that bothers them.
If your kid can't find a solution on their own, even with these tools at their disposal, that doesn't mean they're out of luck. After all, you've already given them the assurance that they can always ask for your help. By familiarizing them with solutions and managing their usage, you'll be better able to keep your child safe from online bullies this school year.
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Phishing attacks targeting organisations rose up considerably during the pandemic, as millions of employees working from home became a prime target for cybercriminals. A large majority (83 per cent) of IT teams in India said the number of phishing emails targeting their employees increased during 2020, according to a report by UK-based cybersecurity firm Sophos on Monday.
"It can be tempting for organisations to see phishing attacks as a relatively low-level threat, but that underestimates their power. Phishing is often the first step in a complex, multi-stage attack. According to Sophos Rapid Response, attackers frequently use phishing emails to trick users into installing malware or sharing credentials that provide access to the corporate network," Sophos' Principal Research Scientist, Chester Wisniewski said in a statement. The findings also reveal that there is a lack of common understanding about the definition of phishing. For instance, 67 per cent of IT teams in India associate phishing with emails that falsely claim to be from a legitimate organisation, and which are usually combined with a threat or request for information.
The findings also reveal that there is a lack of common understanding about the definition of phishing. | Pixabay
As many as 61 per cent consider Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks to be phishing, and half of the respondents (50 per cent) think threadjacking - when attackers insert themselves into a legitimate email thread as part of an attack - is phishing. Most of the organisations in India (98 per cent) have implemented cybersecurity awareness programmes to combat phishing. Respondents said they use computer-based training programmes (67 per cent), human-led training programmes (60 per cent), and phishing simulations (51 per cent).
Four-fifths of Indian organisations assess the impact of their awareness programme through the number of phishing-related tickets raised with IT, followed by the level of reporting of phishing emails by users (77 per cent) and click rates on phishing emails (60 per cent). All the organisations surveyed (100 per cent) in Delhi, Hyderabad, and Kolkata say they have a cybersecurity awareness programme in place. This was followed by Chennai where 97 per cent have such programmes, and then, Bengaluru and Mumbai at 96 per cent each. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: programmes, organisation, emails, phishing
With the pandemic forcing many schools and educational institutions to find online alternatives, 89 per cent people in India believe that schools should educate children on cyber safety, according to a study by McAfee released on Tuesday. Of these, 62 per cent believe that digital wellness and protection should have its own separate curriculum that is taught throughout grade school while 27 per cent feel it should be integrated into technology subjects like IT. Further, 81 per cent of the people in India said that since last year, at least one member in their household started either full time or part time online learning via virtual platforms. Of these 24 per cent learners fall between the age group 5-12, and 9 per cent even under the age of 5.
89 per cent people in India believe that schools should educate children on cyber safety, according to a study by McAfee released on Tuesday. Photo by Maria Thalassinou on Unsplash
"With students as well as teachers now operating from lesser controlled environments, the need to educate them on basics such as phishing, cyberbullying, and inculcating overall cybersecurity hygiene is imperative. Educational institutions must approach cybersecurity holistically, particularly now that technology pervades nearly every facet of a child's life," said Judith Bitterli, senior vice president of Consumer at McAfee, in a statement. "As technology has transformed the educational sector, cybersecurity too must be part of the school curriculum, and entrenched in the way we teach, and the way we learn," she added. To stay safe, one must scrutinise the email/text before replying; maximise privacy settings on all social profiles and engage in safe social networking.
Children must also be educated about fake news, how to spot a phishing scam, make strong, complex passwords, among others. Photo by Dan Nelson on Unsplash
Use a VPN when children are accessing online learning services from home to protect the privacy of the Internet connection with bank-level encryption to stop hackers stealing personal information like passwords or data, McAfee advised. Children must also be educated about fake news, how to spot a phishing scam, make strong, complex passwords, among others. For the study, McAfee commissioned MSI International to conduct a survey of over 1,000 adults in India in April 2021, aged 18-75. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: cybercrime, cyber-security, hacking, passwords, cyber bully, password, VPN, data, phising, pandemic
Cuba has introduced new controls over online content deemed to affect national interests, in a move described as "Orwellian" by independent media and activists.
Decree 35 was passed last week, following the biggest anti-government protests in decades, as Cubans called for better living conditions amid economic hardship and the pandemic. Details of the unrest spread in part because of social media.
The new law is aimed at content or messages that Havana deems to be false news, offensive or that may incite acts "that upset public order." Under it, anyone who tries to "subvert the constitutional order" will be considered a cyberterrorist. A special channel also has been set up for citizens to inform on anyone who breaks the law.
"Our Decree 35 goes against misinformation and cyber lies," Reuters quoted Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel as saying.
The Cuban president blamed the July 11 protests on an online campaign that he said was led by U.S.-backed counter-revolutionaries. So far, the penalties for breaching the regulations have not been made public, but it is believed the government would fine offenders, a Cuba-based journalist who requested anonymity, said.
Police detain an anti-government demonstrator at a protest Image source: voavoa
Independent media within Cuba and analysts have said the decree is similar to the totalitarianism described in George Orwell's novel 1984, in which Big Brother controls every aspect of citizens' lives.
"This decree is a way of silencing any critical voices in Cuba, which may have existed after 62 years of communist rule," Normando Hernandez, of the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press, told VOA. The Miami-based organization supports opposition media on the island.
"It is a way to kill off all liberty of expression. It means even if you call a meeting, this can be construed as cyberterrorism. Any content that the government construes as against the government can be seen as a crime," he said.
No arrests under the law have been reported. But Hernandez said that many Cubans already are fearful of violating the legislation, and they are avoiding posting on social media platforms. Bertrand De La Grange, chief editor in Madrid for independent Cuban website 14ymedio, said the new decree is "Orwellian."
"They are trying to create the same totalitarian world as George Orwell described in 1984 or Animal Farm," he told VOA.
De La Grange said the government introduced further restrictions on free speech in response to the biggest demonstrations since the 1990s, which in part were caused by criticism over the high coronavirus rate.
"The fact the regime is doing this shows it is on the defensive. It is not solving any of the major problems. The COVID-19 situation is much worse than the official media say," he added.
As of Thursday, Cuba has more than a half-million confirmed cases and 4,500 deaths from COVID-19, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University. Its new case rate is estimated at 9,376 a day over the past week. De La Grange said 14ymedio and other independent media had managed to circumvent controls because Havana does not operate a total block on the internet in the way that China does.
Government protest in Cuba Image source: wikimediawikimedia
"This decree is a way to try to punish those who publish what the regime calls 'fake news' but it is what we know is the true situation," said De La Grange.
Under the new decree, the state telecommunications company can suspend access to the internet for those found to have broken the new law. Journalist Camila Acosta said that despite the regulations, Havana could not prevent millions of Cubans from accessing social media.
"They can charge independent journalists like me – I have had five telephones confiscated this year alone – but they cannot possibly control millions of Cubans who access social media all the time. It is impossible," said Acosta, who works for the news website Cubanet, and for the Spanish daily ABC.
Acosta was arrested after reporting on the July demonstrations and has been placed under house arrest for six months while police investigate her case.
"This will make my job more difficult, but they have introduced previous legislation to attack the free media so this is not new. What is new is that it is an attempt to stop people organizing demonstrations," Acosta told VOA from her home in Havana.
Police scuffle with anti-government demonstrators in Havana, Cuba Image source: voavoa
Since the introduction of mobile internet a bit more than two years ago, platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram have allowed Cubans to air complaints. Havana insists that it permits free speech as long as it is "within the revolution." But Decree 35 has alarmed Cuba civil rights campaigners, who say it uses vague language regarding what information internet users should provide to the government.
The law says users should grant public security institutions the "technical facilities and services they require" and give the Communications Ministry the "information that (the ministry) determines."
"We have to see the context of this. Cuba has already introduced legislation to restrict the activities of journalists and activists," said Amnesty's Americas director Erika Guevara-Rosas, referring to a law passed in 2019. "This new decree is not sending out a message to them, it is sending a message to the general Cuban population."
"It wants to strengthen a culture of fear among anyone who might be thinking of organizing protests or complaining about the fact you have to stand in line for hours to get basics in Cuba," Guevara-Rosas told VOA.
The communist government wanted to "formalize digital repression" in a country in which it already controls all aspects of life, Guevara-Rosas said. U.S. lawmakers, including Senator Marco Rubio, as well as foreign diplomats in Havana, have criticized the new measure.
"What the dictatorship doesn't realize is that the Cuban people have lost all fear to voice their opinions, they've realized the despotic nature of the regime and aren't afraid of protesting against over 60 [years] of repression," Rubio told VOA.
Congress this month passed an amendment co-sponsored by the Republican senator from Florida to provide Cubans uncensored access to the internet.
"It is now in the [U.S.] president's hands to act upon what Congress has approved," Rubio said.
British Ambassador to Cuba Antony Stokes also voiced concern at the decree, tweeting, "Harassment, detentions against peaceful protesters, trials without due process and censorship embodied today by Decree Law 35 silence legitimate voices and violate international conventions." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Cuba, Cyber Security Law, Protests