5 tips for dealing with cyberbullying in education

According to the latest figures by nobullying.com, 68 per cent of teens agree that cyber bullying has now become a serious problem in schools. This is exacerbated by the fact more than half of young people admit they never confide in their parents when cyber bulling happens to them.

Cyber bullies exploit vulnerability – the vulnerability of security systems, the vulnerability of information and the vulnerability of the victims themselves. To prevent what can be life-destroying harassment, WatchGuard proposes parents, educators and IT professionals work together to create a united front.

Here are five tips for institutions looking to tackle the growing cyberbullying issue in education.

1. Control student access to apps

Students will want access to all their favorite apps, but these can provide a platform for bullying and expose security weaknesses. Apps must be monitored and controlled to protect the students who use them and limit the amount of bandwidth being taken by more media-rich functions such as video sharing.

2. Ensure you can filter encrypted content

The rise of SSL protocols is a natural product of the need to securely connect devices to the internet. In instances of cyberbullying or malware however, HTTPs traffic can reduce visibility and create security risks that cannot be filtered by conventional searches. Make sure you have the right systems in place to inspect this encrypted content and uncover more advanced network attacks.

3. Segment your network and see threats clearly

Effectively separating networks that contain confidential information from those openly accessible to students is key to protecting data – particularly when considering the rise in bring your own device (BYOD). Increase visibility of where your network traffic is coming from and safeguard segregation by requiring authentication and enforcing security policies.

4. Be aware of current trends

IT departments need to know which social media sites and applications are currently popular with their students. This information can be gathered from looking at internet traffic, reading industry and student-focused publications, as well as visiting social media sites themselves.

Once you have identified the browsing patterns, keep in mind that today’s youth are more computer literate than many adults and some will try anything they can to get around restrictive security measures. As students attempt to find workarounds, keeping on top of the latest security and hacking issues can make all the difference in protecting your network.

5. Create a united front through awareness programs

Cyber bullying can happen anywhere at anytime. Making sure that everyone involved in students’ lives is aware of what bullying looks like, its effects and how to prevent it, is essential. Awareness campaigns can involve posters, meetings and workshops.

“In an age where even the youngest students now access online content and the consequences of cyber bullying become increasingly serious, the need to protect children and young people has never been greater,” says Jonathan Whitley, WatchGuard Northern Europe territory director. “At WatchGuard we are committed to protecting internet users from illegal, immoral or harmful actions. Any device can instantly become a target today, which means online security must be responsive to the needs of every individual. By providing educators with the visibility they need to quickly distil where threats are coming, they can get into action in real time to protect today’s students on their premises and beyond.”