For Katherine Thompson, CATA’s Vice-President and National Spokesperson the topic of online security is something she talks about every day as lead of her association’s cyber security portfolio. Recently, the reality of the topic, in particular cyberbullying, became very personal and eye opening when her young son fell victim to online harassment.
“Professionally, I have participated in many discussions around cyberbullying and the concerns related to kids and social media but nothing prepared me for what I saw in terms of what is happening and how it’s being managed” says Thompson. She cites an alarming escalation in how social media sites like Instagram and downloadable apps like Yik Yak are being used as not just a communication tool but as an online gathering spot for bullying, ostracizing and in cases like her son’s, threats of physical violence. “You see situations where kids are being literally swarmed online and through text but instead of stepping up and reporting the abuse many remain silent out of fear of the ramifications to themselves and their family,” Thompson notes. And this isn’t just an issue of kid’s staying silent. Many parents choose to keep the bullying quiet instead of standing up and speaking out.
A 2014 national study released by US Bureau of Justice and US Department of Health and Human Services reported that 52% of youths between the ages of 11 -19 indicated that they had been cyber bullied with 33% indicating they had received cyberthreats and 25% being harassed via text. Equally alarming was the statistic that 52% of all victims indicated that they did not tell their parents about the abuse. This behaviour is being seen firsthand in many schools and in the policing community. “As a police officer that spends most of my working time with local high schools and students I find that most of the investigations that I get involved with are connected one way or another back to social media” says Police Constable Dave Morton of the Durham Police Force. Working in close partnership with the schools, Morton feels that policing and the school system are challenged in many cases when trying to determine the source of the offending messages. ”In many cases, the sophistication of the applications being used to mask the true identity of the offender makes identification almost impossible to determine”. notes Morton.
CATA’s Public Safety Advisory Board & Social Media Group is engaging public and private sector leaders in discussions on how we can further support the efforts of the schools and police. “We need to not only engage parents and youth in direct discussions around the emotional and legal impacts of cyberbullying but also work together to develop safeguards both online and through the technology that is being used” says Thompson.
Call to Action for Leaders in the following sectors: Government, Policing, Education, Telecommunications, Technology (service and manufacturing), Cyber Security, Media and Communications, Healthcare and Financial Services please contact Katherine Thompson at email@example.com to discuss how to get involved in CATA's Public Safety & Cyber Security mission.