What is cybersafety?

Cybersafety is the safe and responsible use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). As the number of internet users continues to grow worldwide, internet safety is a growing concern for both children and adults.

Posting online

It is important to know what is safe to post online and what should rather not be posted.

Your Photo
Social networking sites like Facebook make it a lot easier to share photos with your friends, but think before you post. Only share photos with friends you know in real life and make sure you check out your privacy settings — don’t let random people snoop through your photo albums!

Your Journal
You might think that it’s safe to start an anonymous blog all about your life, but be careful. It’s easy to figure out who you are based on a few details. If you do decide to keep an online journal, make sure that it’s password protected and only share it with your friends.

Your Schedule
Don’t post your class schedule or when you’re planning to show up for soccer practice — you never know what creeps might show up.

Cyberbullying is a serious form of harassment. If you need to vent about a classmate, call a friend to gripe instead of posting the rant online. You’ll spare the victim and save yourself some major legal trouble!

Party Details
Just like your class schedule, this kind of info should only be shared with your real-life friends. Be careful about making public postings about parties. Word can spread fast — and not always to people you want showing up at your house.

Your School
Don’t ever post the name of your school. No one needs to know that information, especially potential weirdos that may show up on school grounds.

Your Address
Keep this information on the down-low. Only people you trust should know where you live.

Your Phone Number
Unless you want phone calls from strangers in the middle of the night, keep your phone number off the internet.

Your Passwords
Don’t tell your passwords to even your best friend. Hacking is serious, and you should be the only one who has this information, just in case.


What is cyberbullying?

Although traditional bullying is still a common occurrence, youth today are also experiencing a new type of bullying that has been made possible through ever-increasing technological advances. Cyberbullying is a specific type of bullying that has been analysed and defined in various different ways over the past few years.

There is no one set definition for cyberbullying, but it can be broadly defined as intentional and repeated harm or discomfort inflicted through the use of electronic devices or technology, such as cell phones and computers.

Cyberbullying involves harassment by an offender against a victim who is physically distant. Even though it does not involve personal contact, it remains psychologically and emotionally damaging. 

The key element found here is the same as with traditional bullying and that is the repeated nature of the act of intentional harassment or aggression, carried out by groups or individuals against a victim
who cannot easily defend themselves.

Types of cyberbullying
There are various types and forms of cyberbullying which may occur. These include the following:

Flaming – this involves brief, heated online fights, where electronic messages using angry, vulgar, insulting and sometimes threatening language, are exchanged. It typically occurs in online public forums such as chat rooms, discussion groups or games. A lengthy series of these messages is called a ‘flame war’.

Harassment – this involves frequently sending a cruel, offensive or threatening message to an individual target. This is usually done via a person’s email account, mobile phone or another personal communication channel. It may cause alarm, annoyance or emotional stress to the receiver. The South African Law Reform Commission distinguishes between direct and indirect online harassment. Direct harassment includes threats, bullying or intimidating electronic messages sent directly to the victim. Indirect harassment includes spreading rumours about the victim on internet discussion forums, subscribing the victim to unwanted online services and posting information about the victim on online dating or sex services.

Denigration – this involves the sending or posting of cruel gossip or rumours about a person to damage his or her reputation or friendships. It often involves spreading rumours about someone’s sexual orientation and information that is derogatory and untrue. It also includes posting or sending digitally altered photographs of someone to others, particularly pictures that portray the victim in
a sexualised or harmful way.

Impersonation or identity theft – this is when someone breaks into someone else’s account and poses as that person, sending messages or other information to others online in an attempt to damage the victim’s reputation and friendships or to get the victim in trouble. Negative, cruel or inappropriate information is communicated to others as if the target were voicing these thoughts. 

Outing or trickery – this involves sharing someone’s secrets or embarrassing information or images online with people with whom the information was never intended to be shared. In some instances, deception is used to trick someone into revealing their secrets or embarrassing information, and these are then shared online with others.

Exclusion – this is related to the designation of who is a member of the in-group and who is an outcast. The emotional impact of exclusion can be intense and may occur in an online gaming environment, group blogging environment, or any other password-protected communication environment.

Cyberstalking – this, much like traditional stalking, involves threats of harm or intimidation through repeated online harassment and threatening or offensive messages.

Happy slapping – a relatively new type of cyberbullying – involves incidents where people walk up to someone and slap them, while another captures the violence using a camera phone or digital camera. In some cases it constitutes more than slapping and assault may ensue.

A few steps to protect yourself from cyberbullying

  • Face your problems. Never “Facebook” your problems.
  • Think before you post.
  • Always be kind and respectful, and surround yourself with friends who are also kind and respectful.
  • Be careful around people your age who are always ‘surrounded by drama’. You never know when you’ll get sucked into it!
  • Never, ever let anybody know your password. Protect your social media accounts from being “hacked” by changing your password every so often. If you use a smartphone never leave it unattended.

What can you do if you are being cyberbullied?

  • Don’t respond to messages and never retaliate. It will only add fuel to the fire and escalate the cyberbullying.
  • Tell an adult you trust, such as a parent, teacher or coach. If they don’t offer you any real solutions, then search for a trusted adult who is better equipped to offer advice, such as a school councillor.
  • Save all evidence. Do not delete any communications. Be sure to keep electronic copies and print-outs in case things escalate. This will empower you to allow justice to be served against the cyberbully.
  • Keep records of Internet Service Provider (ISP) and police contacts. If the cyberbully continues to harass you, contact their ISP.
  • Save all information that contains even a hint of threat, and contact the police.
  • Block the harasser after you have made copies of all communication.

R. Steenkamp Cybersafety Macmillan Teacher Campus 2016