Every day we spend more and more time exposed to screens and content that is disseminated through various digital channels, such as: the internet, social networks, messaging platforms, gaming platforms, among others. This longer connection time also represents a greater risk of cyberviolence.
In the same way that different manifestations of violence are present in every life, different types of abuse are transferred to virtual spaces.
Even if these aggressions do not have physical consequences, they are still traumatic and have serious repercussions on mental health.
Children, adolescents, parents, teachers and caregivers can contribute to making the digital world a safe environment. The first step to achieve this is to identify the types of cyberviolence, the online risks and take action to minimize them.
Types of risks
In its report “Viral Violence” Save The Children Foundation has defined different types of manifestations of cyberviolence. Get to know them and learn how to identify them.
Cyberbullying: constitutes harassment or bullying using digital technologies. Its purpose is to frighten, anger or humiliate other people. Generally, it is the extension of traditional bullying and is often aggravated by the viralization of content.
How is it manifested?
- With spreading lies, photos or embarrassing videos of someone on social networks.
- By sending hurtful or threatening messages, images or videos through messaging.
- Impersonating someone else to send aggressive messages on their behalf.
Happy slapping: This type of violence refers to dissemination of recordings of physical, verbal or sexual assaults towards a person.
- The victim is subjected to repeated public humiliation.
- The assaulted minor becomes a recognizable victim.
- The child is also ridiculed by those who access the published material.
Grooming or Cybergrooming: is when an adult contacts a child or adolescent over the Internet to gain their trust and then engage them in sexual activity.
Phases of grooming.
- The abuser pretends to be a child or adolescent.
- The aggressor insists on keeping everything secret.
- The perpetrator asks if anyone knows about the child’s relationship with him or if anyone accessed his devices.
- When he feels confident, he introduces conversations of sexual nature.
- The perpetrator forces the victim to talk about sex, send sexual material or have a sexual encounter with him.
Involuntary exposure to sexual and/or violent material: Because of their unlimited acces to the Internet, childern and adolescents are vulnerable to encountering harmful material while searching online. In addition, other people may send them and force them to view such material through chats or e-mails.
How does this affect?
- The child’s development.
- The victim’s understanding of personal relationships.
Incitement to harmful behavior: this expression of violence seeks to affect the health and physical integrity of the children or adolescents exposed to it.
- Dangerous viral challenges.
- Developing eating disorders.
- Keeping such behaviors secret.
Sexting: this term refers to the sending of messages or material with sexual content through the Internet or messaging platforms. Although this material is usually sent with consent, the sender loses all control over it.
- Dissemination without consent.
- Sexual distortion in minors.
Sextortion: occurs when a person exerts power over another, through blackmail, by threatening to publish content or information of a sexual nature that involves him or her if he or she does not give in to his or her demands.
It may cause:
- Anxiety and depression.
- Panic attacks.
Cyberviolence in a partner or ex-partner: is intended to control or harm a partner or ex-partner. It can mean the transfer of physical violence to the digital world and usually feeds into other types of online abuse.
How does this happen?
- Monitoring the location of the couple, their conversations and interactions on the Internet and social networks.
- Appropriating the passwords of the victim’s social network and e-mail accounts.
- Disseminating secrets or sexually explicit material.
- Impersonating the identity of the partner to make publications.
- Through degrading or threatening comments.
Beware if sharenting!
In addition to the forms of violence already mentioned, there is a high-risk practice that can also violate and expose minors to cyberviolence.
Sharenting: constitutes the disclosure of information about the life of minors by parents, which does not seek to cause harm, but may expose or put the child or adolescent in a situation of vulnerability.
5 tips for creating a safe environment on the Internet
We can all contribute to making virtual spaces for children and adolescents. Permanent accompaniment, being attentive to warning signs and taking action in case any of them appear can be the best way to protect them.
- Open communication: Have an open and honest dialogue with children and explain to them the situations that may arise in virtual environments, tell them that in case of any kind of incident, they can always turn to a trusted adult and teach them to have a positive relationship with technology.
- Healthy online habits: Instruct them to make responsible use of technological tools, encourage them to be friendly and respectful in the digital world, and make them aware of the repercussions that online publications have because it doesn’t matter if this material is comments, photos, and videos, it’s no longer private.
- Connect with children: share connection time with children and adolescents, and generate positive and safe interactions. Also, help them to recognize age-inappropriate information and content.
- Use of technology to ensure safety: explore and take advantage of applications and tools that can help protect children. Also, explain how to protect their private information.
- Block, report and denounce: in case of perceiving situations that may affect a person, blocks, reports and denounces the situation or harmful content and shares with children and adolescents the tools offered by the different platforms for this purpose.
Where any type of abuse occurs does not make a difference. Cyberviolence has a serious impact on survivors. Join this fight and raise your voice against all manifestations of violence.
Join the #YoDigoNoMas movement and let’s break the chains of abuse together.