Cyber bullying in the UK has been growing over the last few years. In a study conducted this year, the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre in Dublin found that online bullying has affected more than one in ten children. Numbers are higher among primary school students (14 percent) versus secondary school students (10 percent).
The United States is also well-known for high rates of cyber bullying, but this problem isn’t limited to the affluent societies of Europe and North America. In Singapore, technology spread quickly over the first decade of the 21st century, and more than 80 percent of the population now use the internet. Cyber bullying rates are also higher than almost anywhere else in the world, with 3 out of every 10 children affected according to a survey from the Media Literacy Council. Last year, Singapore’s parliament introduced a bill that clearly defined online bullying as a crime and offered more legal protection for victims.
Protecting Children Online
Online privacy and security is something the whole family needs to take seriously. Children who use the internet are even more vulnerable to harassment than adults and they need guidance about how to deal with negative individuals online. They are also more prone to sharing personal details that can lead to data breaches and harmful leaks. Privacy services such as those offered by ReputationDefender help to keep young children safe online and counter the risk of exposing sensitive data.
Cyber Bullying and Harassment
In general, cyber bullying is defined as taking place between two minors, while cyber harassment or cyber stalking is perpetrated by an adult. All of these crimes cause emotional and/or physical damage. Many cases of cyber bullying are carried out by someone your child knows, from school or elsewhere, but children on the internet are also at risk from people they’ve only encountered online.
Cyber harassment isn’t limited to children. Adults also experience targeted threats and abuse on the internet. Public harassment, especially the sharing of compromising images, causes reputational damage and can make it hard to build a career or maintain relationships.
Singapore’s Cyber Bullying bill is the most targeted legislation aimed at countering this problem. Under the law, cyber bullying refers to all types of online offenses including bullying, stalking, sexual harassment and the harassment of children. Victims of these crimes can apply for a Protection Order which makes it illegal for the perpetrator to communicate with them.
UK law hasn’t yet formed a legal definition for cyber bullying, however many existing laws can be applied to this behaviour. For example, The Protection from Harassment Act, the Communications Act and the Defamation Act can all protect victims depending on the situation.
Solutions for Cyber Bullying
Legal protections are extremely important, but tracking down an anonymous perpetrator can be hard and even prosecution won’t undo the damage. Children who are victims of severe cyber bullying can suffer the consequences all their lives, especially if there is compromising material publicly available on the internet.
Parents and teachers are becoming more aware of this problem and a growing number of support organisations around the world are attempting to help. CyberSafeIreland is an internet safety charity that has talked with more than 4,000 UK children over the past year. The Singapore Children’s Society Against Bullying for Children and Youth was active in getting the new law passed and continues to offer prevention services and support for victims. These are all valuable efforts in the ongoing fight to slow the epidemic of cyber bullying.