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Cyber Security

Fighting technology with technology: protecting children from cyber bullies

T By Kim Maslin

40 | Chief IT Magazine

echnology has altered the way we live. This goes for both positive interactions with technology, such as keeping in touch with family overseas, as well as the negative aspects, such as cyber bullying, cyber stalking and cyber terrorism. Cyber bullying is no different to traditional bullying, aside from it leveraging technology. Cyber bullies use of technologies, such as email, text messages and social networking sites to hurt their victims, prowling the common platforms used by teenagers, including Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and Skype. But how do we adapt our anti-bullying strategies to deal with cyber bullying, given its innate ability to invade not just our children’s school lives, but also their home life? The answer is that we all have a role to play in combating cyber bullying. Leading the way are our schools. Australian schools have already developed a number of measures to help combat cyber bullying, minimising the impact on our children. These measures include formulating policies that outline how the school will deal with cyber bullies; educating the student cohort about the impact of cyber bullying; responding to cyber bullying complaints; and providing support through counselors and pastoral care programmes for those who have been victimised. Technical measures have also been introduced in the form of content filtering and monitoring. These approaches draw upon digital technologies to filter out communications that may be deemed inappropriate, as well as monitoring the websites students visit and their behaviours while on school networks. This enables schools to collect evidence of cyber bullying incidences and hold those responsible to account. School ICT departments play a critical role in managing these filtering and monitoring systems, ensuring they stay one step ahead of today’s technically savvy teens. This approach goes a long way in minimising the number of cyber bullying incidences reported in schools, but it also aligns with the bigger vision the Australian Federal

Government outlined in the Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy ( Underpinning the success of this strategy is the development of a ‘cyber smart nation’ – a country complete with highlyskilled cyber security professionals, as well as a nation of citizens who understand the threats from cyberspace. While information security professionals are undoubtedly required to address a broad range of cyber threats – from terrorism to financial scams – protection of our children must remain a high priority. Research has found that one in five Australian children from the age of 12 to 17 have been victims of cyber bullying over the past year. Furthermore, the adverse effect of cyber bullying on our children’s mental health has been shown to be profound, ranging from selfesteem issues all the way through to suicide, so it’s vital that we keep it front and centre in people’s minds as we develop these national plans. As a community, we need to maintain the momentum that is building to tackle cyber bullying. Schools need to continue monitoring and educating our children, while parents need to do wake up to these threats (and their indicators) at home. In order to keep up with the everchanging digital landscape, Australia needs to invest in the future of anti-bullying technologies and professionals. We hope the government hears our call and invests in the future of Australia, which lies in the hands of the children of the digital age. About the author Kim Maslin is an entrepreneur, educator, cybersafety expert, social media enthusiast and founder of 3103 Communications. She is most importantly a ‘digital native’, who has grown up with the Internet and has been around social media for the better part of her life. Her expertise in communications, experience as a Technologies Teacher and Digital Learning Integrator and her passion to empower the community with digital literacy skills are the forces

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