While it is true that the internet has become the foremost source of information and entertainment today, it is equally evident that young, impressionable minds have become the target of various kinds of frauds and associated ills, such as cyberbullying, online harassment, etc. Some of the most common internet frauds include phishing, hijacking, malware attacks, cyberbullying etc.
Needless to say, parents must protect their children, especially teenagers, from cyberbullying and falling prey to internet fraud. But how can parents prevent internet fraud or cyberbullying? What are the tell-tale signs that your son/daughter has been a victim? What are steps that parents can take if their sons or daughters have been victims of internet fraud? In this article, we shall take a look at cyberbullying and its impact on the mental health of children.
What is internet fraud?
Internet fraud uses online services and software to defraud or take advantage of the victims. It may take many forms, including phishing, hacking, online duping etc. However, for teenagers and young adults, the most important form is that of cyberbullying. It can be both overt and covert and uses electronic communication (computer, internet, etc.) to send intimidating messages to a person.
Internet fraud and Cyberbullying in India
As per a recent report, a staggering 27 million Indian adults were victims of identity theft in the past 12 months, while 52% of adults do not know how to protect themselves from cybercrime. Similarly, another study conducted in the Delhi-NCR region has shown that 9.2% of 630 teenagers have experienced cyberbullying of some form and have reported it to their parents, guardians and school teachers. In fact, as per National Crime Records Bureau, incidents of cyberbullying and stalking have increased by 36% from 542 in 2017 to 739 in 2018. Therefore, parents need to protect their children from cyberbullying.
What are the signs of cyberbullying?
In a world, where parents are increasingly becoming distant from their children, we must take a keen interest in our children’s upbringing and monitor their free time.
Children are spending more time than ever on the internet and social media. Therefore, it is important to observe their activities and the psychological impact these have on kids. As per leading child psychologists, here are some warning signs of cyberbullying:
- Your child may appear nervous or scared about going to school
- He/she may appear upset or scared after going online or a session of gaming
- You child may also be reluctant to share details of their online account or activities
- There’s unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite
- Your child concentration level may decline and he or she can start performing poorly at school.
Child psychologists say that these are some common signs of being bullied, although the list is not exhaustive. Since each child is unique, it is important to understand that your child may respond to the challenges uniquely. Patience, continuous monitoring and frank and frequent discussions with children are called for.
What can you do to protect children from cyber fraud and online bullying?
There are small but effective steps that can be taken by parents to protect their children from being bullied.
Always be frank with your children and have an open and honest conversation. Ask about their friends at school and those online. Ideally, you should have an idea of the company that your child keeps. That way, you can easily track the person who is bullying and harassing your child.
Online bullies work in the same way as real-life ones. They thrive on attention and a sense of self-importance. The best way is to ignore them. However, as a parent, you must realize that it is not always possible to walk away from the bully. In such a situation, you must tell your child to step away from the internet and social media for a while.
It is also helpful if your child can develop a hobby. This will keep him or her away from the internet and social media. Hobbies are also important for psychological growth. Singing, dancing, photography, sports can help your child to develop both psychologically and emotionally.
If the cyberbully is a known person it is important that you track him or her down. The bully must be called out publicly. It must be made known to him/her that bullying is not right.
Legal recourse is another option. India has robust laws to protect people from online harassment, fraud and other forms of cybercrime. If the bullying is virulent and relentless, you should lodge a police complaint. All cybercrime-related complaints must be vetted by the cyber security cell of the police department. Arrests can only be made after a thorough investigation has been conducted.
In conclusion, it must be said that cyberbullying and other forms of internet fraud are dangerous to the mental health of young children. As parents, we must be observant enough to prevent cyberbullying or nip it in the bud. Patience, frankness and constant vigil are the keys.