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How cyber security can tackle cyber bullying

Students, parents, teachers and community experts can all harness technology to protect children from cyber bullying

Access to online learning exposes students to a wealth of information. However, it can also expose them to the darker side of the Internet. Cyber bullies use Internet-based platforms to torment others, even when attending school.

And cyber bullying is a serious political, educational and public health concern.

Asia is rising up to embrace legislation, such as Singapore's Protection from Harassment Act in 2014, to reduce cyber bullying.

But it is far easier for adults than children to manage cyber bullying, and find legal and policing means to defend themselves against it.

Education itself has a clear role to play in helping schools and colleges to counter cyber bullying.

It is vital to teach young people about the very real consequences of online bullying, both in terms of health and well-being of the victim, and potential criminal consequences for the perpetrator.

So, too, is helping young people to feel comfortable recognising and reporting harmful behaviour before it escalates.

However, there are also technological dimensions to fighting cyber bullying.

URL filtering has been used by schools for years to control which Internet websites can be accessed on school networks.

In turn, this helps schools and educational authorities to establish safe computing policies, specifying which websites to allow, limit or block access to, and screening out unsuitable language.

New techniques have enabled filtering to be expanded out to cover Internet applications as well as websites.

FILTERING NOT ENOUGH

But filtering unwanted content is not enough. Young people must also be protected from online abuses such as inappropriate content, phishing exploits and online bullying in chats and social network sites, including Instagram and Facebook.

This requires advanced sandboxing and filtering technology to identify and extract such harmful content before it reaches users.

Additionally, safe browsing must be enabled to allow young people to search safely across different search engines to filter out disturbing content and images.

Teachers or managers in educational settings need to be empowered to set safe search capabilities.

Anti-bullying features must be customisable through blacklisted keywords, enforced website categories and block actions.

These advanced protection and filtering capabilities should be deployed on school-issued devices to protect students' online experiences to empower teachers and education managers to harness digital technology for learning without increasing the risk of cyber bullying.

Cyberthreats targeting school-age children are a clear and present danger. Cyber bullying can cause serious harm and give rise to violent behaviour.

It can be eradicated only with the active participation of students, parents, teachers, school districts and community experts, and by harnessing advanced solutions that can identify the words and actions used by cyber bullies on social media apps, text and e-mail.

With this combined approach, schools can give their students a safer place to learn and thrive, free of cyber bullying.

The writer is Singapore country manager at Check Point, a provider of cyber security solutions to governments and corporate enterprises globally

Technology