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Lack of early cyberbullying education may leave children vulnerable

Parental assumption that their children are not at risk of cyberbullying until they reach secondary school could be leaving young children at risk of online dangers.

Interviews carried out as part of research by Kaspersky Lab have shown that many parents don’t think cyberbullying education needs to be initiated until children are around 12 or 13, when they start using social media accounts. However, the research shows that children as young as five are interacting online through messenger apps, gaming sites and social networks like Instagram. Many children interviewed as part of the investigation reported being unsupervised while using the internet.

“Do mummy or daddy stay with you when you’re on the internet?”
“No, not usually. Usually I’ll be in my room and they’ll be downstairs.” – Joel, age 11

Children participating in the interviews were also asked to draw an interpretation of what they think a cyberbully looks like – you can see some of their drawings in this story!

Kieran age 7

Drawing of a cyberbully by Kieran, age 7.

Principal Security Researcher, David Emm, said:

The term cyberbullying might not be one that parents want to highlight to their young children, but online behaviour and safety should go hand-in-hand with teaching them not to talk to strangers. Parents may feel that educating young children about online dangers is a minefield, however rather than feeling overwhelmed or unsure of how to tackle the issue, it may help to remember that the same dangers and advice apply when using the internet as they do in the real world.”

Parents interviewed suggested that they were ill-equipped to teach their children about online safety, with some feeling “left in the dark” by emerging technology. As a good starting point, visit our Workshops download area, to find activities around cyberbullying, suitable for ages 5 and up. Happy surfing!

Quotes and children’s drawings gathered in research by Kaspersky Lab.

If you want information and guidance about how to discuss cyberbullying with your children, visit the Parents section of our Help Centre. To get more acquainted with your kids’ favourite sites, visit our Social Networks and Apps area.