Posted by Jacqueline Beauchere
Director, Trustworthy Computing Communications – Privacy & Online Safety
 
As a large technology company with a significant online presence, Microsoft believes it’s our responsibility to help make the Internet a safer place for people, including children, to learn, communicate, play and grow. Of the risks facing children online, cyberbullying is a growing concern for both parents and educators.
 
Today, bullies have capitalized on the availability of much more discreet and efficient tools with which to badger their victims, going beyond the intended uses for which they were designed. Sadly, as we’ve seen in recent news reports, there have been a number of examples where youth who were victimized resorted to taking their own lives.
 
As part of Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to help keep people safer online, I will deliver a keynote address at the International Bullying Prevention Association’s Seventh Annual Conference. At the time, I will also release new research highlighting the extent of this problem.
 
Microsoft conducted a survey of parents and educators across the U.S. Two in five parents report that their child has been involved in a cyberbullying incident. Parents and educators rank cyberbullying midrange among school problems, but ahead of issues like drugs, smoking and violence. Seventy-six percent of educators believe cyberbullying is a bigger concern than smoking or drugs.
 
Clearly, parents have a significant role to play in helping to address this issue — according to our research, 53 percent of parents and 40 percent of educators identify parents as the party primarily responsible for helping to keep kids safe from cyberbullying. Parents should be prepared to oversee their child’s online usage and communicate clear rules and consequences for bullying behavior. Ninety-eight percent of parents seeking assistance from parental-control software identify that technology as one of the most effective steps in helping to curb the risk of cyberbullying.
 
Educators must also play an important role. Those who have taken steps to address cyberbullying in their schools believe those steps have been effective.  Our research shows that among schools that do have policies in place to address incidents of cyberbullying, 89 percent of parents and 88 percent of educators believe they are effective. Training was seen as the most effective, but is often available only at schools where a formal policy is in place. 
 
More needs to be done to get teachers the training they need to help address this important issue. The organization iKeepSafe is preparing the rollout of “Generation Safe,” a new suite of tools for teachers, administrators, and other school staff, law enforcement, parents and students. We think efforts like these are a step in the right direction.
 
The technology industry also has a responsibility to work with parents, educators, governments, law enforcement agencies and children’s advocacy groups to help create a safer computing environment for children. For our part, Microsoft offers considerable resources for families and educators in our Online Safety, Security and Privacy Education Center at www.microsoft.com/protect. We also participate in industry coalitions and support child advocacy organizations like the Family Online Safety Institute and LOOKBOTHWAYS
 
Cyberbullying is really no different than the other online safety issues we seek to address at Microsoft.  No one company, organization or entity can resolve these challenges single-handedly.  What’s truly needed is a collaborative effort to pursue a combination of education, enforcement, policies and technology tools.  These issues are everyone’s responsibility, and everyone has a role to play to help end cyberbullying.