Oct. 16, 2019

Promote and practice digital civility in an online world

Tips for employees on mental health and cybersecurity

Cyberbullying is “the willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cellphones, and other electronic devices.” This, according to the Cyberbullying Research Centre in their 2019 Cyberbullying: Identification and Response publication.

Mark Sly, director of IT architecture and security at the University of Calgary, says, “Your cyberworld is pervasive now in your life, and online bullying is the same as in person, or even more hurtful.”

The numbers are alarming. According to DoSomething.org, approximately 37 per cent of teenagers have been bullied online. However, while 60 per cent have been a witness to the online bullying, the majority do nothing about it, and only 10 per cent will tell their parents or another trusted adult about experiencing the abuse. Unsurprisingly, the risk of anxiety, depression, isolation, self-harm and suicide is greater for those who are cyberbullied, than others.

Concurrently, almost half of adults online have admitted to experiencing cyberbullying, with 75 per cent witnessing some form of harassment, purposeful embarrassment, physical threats, sexual harassment and stalking. As well, a report in AdWeek October 2014 suggests that about 40 per cent of those attacked online did not know or recognize their perpetrator. However, the number of studies on adult cyberbullying are far fewer than those on children and adolescents, and more research is being done in this area.

Civility and respect

Cyberbullying is just one way in which your online world can directly impact your physical world, and especially your mental health. Many organizations are now promoting civility and respect — one of 13 psychosocial factors the Mental Health Association of Canada has indicated may help the mental health of employees.

Yet, in an online world, how do you promote and practice civility and respect? As our community becomes more aware of the dangers of the online world — including harassment, cyberbullying, doxing, social engineering and sextortion, among others — the connection between vigorous mental health practices and cybersecurity are being recognized and researched.

Mental health professionals recommend that as individuals we need to build our personal resiliency to use as a resource for strength in any tough situation. The Mayo Clinic suggests that being resilient will not make problems disappear, rather resiliency means that we are better able to manage and adapt to the challenges that are given us, thereby continuing to find joy in life. In 2017, the clinic suggested a number of tips, from building strong and loving relationships with family and friends, to eating healthily, getting exercise, learning from adversity, and talking to a mental health professional if you need help in becoming resilient.

Online organizations ranging from major global companies including Microsoft to not-for-profit and smaller charities like StaySafeOnline, the Amanda Todd Legacy Society and Pink Shirt Day are actively educating citizens on digital civility. Refreshing our knowledge of strong social media practices, as well as learning how to recognize and thwart other types of cyber attacks to ensure our well-being are an individual and a citizen responsibility.

UCalgary support

Someone to listen and talk to, along with tools and resources to help you, are accessible right here at UCalgary, including the Employee and Family Assistance plan through Homewood Health, Student Wellness, Women’s Resource Centre, Q Centre, Staff Wellness, and Writing Symbols Lodge.

Social media

One of the most prevalent ways cyberattacks happen is through social media. From a cybersecurity perspective, below are a few tips so you can enjoy all your favourite apps knowing your SM presence is as secure as possible.

  • What goes on the internet, stays on the internet and can influence what happens next in life.
  • Ensure you are USING the privacy settings on all your apps, and have security settings in place.
  • Think before you post! Would you share the same info with your mom? Focus on the good.
  • Always ask before you post a picture of someone else. Respect others right to privacy.
  • Disable any geo-locators on your apps. Some can provide your location, even when not active.
  • Ask a trusted person to have your back online so you know about any inappropriate posts.
  • Don’t accept, online, everyone who asks. Their online presence may not be what it seems.

Navigating the online world is only getting more challenging as bullies and criminals continue to up their game. Michele Moon, specialist, mental health, wellbeing and worklife at UCalgary says, “We are all in this together. We are all responsible for our own civil and respectful discourse online. And, if you feel negatively impacted from an online interaction, there are many resources available on campus and in the community to help.”