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Practicing cyber safety and the impact of cyber abuse

Practicing cyber safety and the impact of cyber abuse


With the advancement of technology, 95% of adolescents now have access to a smartphone and 90% use social media and messaging platforms to exchange communication making cyber safety more important than ever. Practicing cyber safety includes minimizing the risk of cyber abuse, cyber sexual abuse and cyber sexual assault which is largely misunderstood by adults and professionals who are unfamiliar with online abuse that today has sadly become all too common.

What is cyber abuse?

Cyber abuse encompasses many forms of harm enacted online including cyber sexual abuse and cyber sexual assault.

Examples of cyber sexual abuse include:

  • Photos taken with the consent of a victim, but which were posted online or shared without the victim’s consent.
  • Photos taken without the victim’s knowledge.
  • Photos taken from a victim’s computer or private account.
  • An image that was manipulated out of context or the forced production of an image.

As with many other forms of abuse, cyber sexual abuse is used to control a victim often turning into blackmail, cyber stalking, or resulting in isolation from their friends and family. Victim-blaming frequently accompanies cyber abuse due to the intimate nature of a relationship that led to sharing images. A great analogy towards understanding the devastating impact that can be had from cyber abuse, even in a situation where personal photos or information were given with consent, is sharing financial documents with your tax preparator. If your tax preparator shared your financial information, it would be viewed as criminal and steps would be taken to ensure justice was sought to minimize any damage that may have occurred. In the same way, those who have experienced cyber abuse of any kind should be able to seek justice for the crimes that have been committed against them.

Survivors of cyber sexual abuse and/or assault mirror the same psychological trauma indicated in victims of physical assault including noticeable changes in sleeping and eating patterns, nightmares, hypervigilance, anxiety, helplessness, a fear for safety and shock. While cyber sexual abuse and/or assault can happen to anyone, it is widely referred to as a form of gender-based violence as cyber sexual abuse disproportionately affects women. When working with survivors of cyber abuse, particularly students in high school or at the collegiate level, it is important to remember that how they react to the process of taking action or recovering from the impact cyber abuse has had in their lives will be shaped by their individual experiences. No one survivor experiences trauma the same way. Whichever course of action a survivor chooses, from pressing criminal charges to seeking mental health support towards recovery, proactively respecting their agency and choices towards healing makes an incredible difference in honoring their resiliency.

How can you help support cyber safety?

School resource officers, counselors, social workers, school nurses and administrators can all play a pivotal role in limiting the exposure students have to experiencing harm online and practicing cyber safety. With Impero EdAware, you are able to track concerns involving cyber abuse, cyber sexual assault, and cyberbullying while coordinating with other members of staff to ensure students are supported in seeking justice. Impero EdAware links in with our Impero EdProtect keyword detection libraries to understand the whole story when cyber abuse occurs. When a keyword is flagged, Impero EdProtect sends a picture of that screenshot to Impero EdAware alerting IT personnel and counselors for early detection before cyber abuse escalates within your school community. Learn more about Impero EdAware and Impero EdProtect by booking a personalized demonstration here.

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