Dr. V.S. Gayathri
What is Cyberbullying and Why You Need To Know About It
As mentioned in our last article on bullying, Indian kids are the most cyberbullied kids in the world. This is quite alarming, and many parents might not even know if their child is being cyberbullied or not.
In today’s fast-changing world, we have adapted to technology like never before. We use it, we need it in every sphere of our lives. Yet we fall prey to its evils now and then. Cyber frauds are rising by the day, and everyone is at risk of cyber threats.
Even before the pandemic, kids have been exposed to technology a lot. And ever since COVID-19, this exposure has increased manifold. From online classes to taking exams, and doing their assignments – they have got a pretty good hold of the digital world. Then, there are video games, YouTube, and so many other things that they can do online.
This has increased their access to the Internet as well, and hence opened doors for cyber threats too. They are much more prone to such threats and not aware of how to protect themselves.
According to cyberbullying research with parents of kids between the ages of 10 and 18 years, it was found that 21% of children have been cyberbullied. Let us understand what cyberbullying is and how can we help.
Did you know that Indian children have the highest online risk exposure and are among the youngest to reach mobile maturity as revealed in a new study by McAfee Corp, a global leader in online protection?
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is using technology to threaten, harass, tease, embarrass or target another person. It can happen through direct texts, SMS, apps, or online forums. Cyberbullying can happen through any electronic device with access to the Internet.
There can be several examples:
spreading rumours about someone or posting embarrassing/obscene photos or videos of someone on social media
sending hurtful, abusive, or threatening messages, images, or videos via online channels
impersonating someone and sending mean messages to others on their behalf through fake accounts
demeaning someone with personal attacks on social media
Cyberbullying can happen primarily on:
Social Media, such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Tik Tok, and others
Online gaming communities and platforms
Text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices
Direct messaging, and online chatting over the Internet
Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards like Reddit, etc.
“In a report titled ‘Life behind the screens of parents, tweens, and teens’ it is stated that In India, smartphone use at the age of 10 to 14 years is as high as 83%, which is significantly above the international average of 76% by 7%. This leads to high exposure to online risks as there is a substantial security gap between parents and children. Additionally, while the concern is relatively low among parents, 22% of Indian children experienced cyberbullying at some time which is notably higher than the global average of 17% by 5%.”
How can kids get cyberbullied?
There are several reasons and ways in which kids can get bullied. The reasons for physical and online bullying are not so different. Kids can get bullied due to racial discrimination, social background, skin colour or body shaming, personal disputes, power game, or any other reason.
Let us point out some disturbing statistics which show the prevalence of cyberbullying in kids.
The most common type of online bullying is mean comments in around 22.5% of cases.
35% of bullies had shared a screenshot of someone’s status or photo to laugh at them.
61% of teens who report being bullied say it was because of their appearance.
77% of online harassment victims reported that they had been harassed on Facebook.
7 in 10 young people experience cyberbullying before they hit the age of 18 years.
210 out of 1000 victims of bullying are high school girls with a different skin colour
42% of LGBT youth have experienced cyberbullying
These alarming numbers speak for themselves on how cyberbullying is growing by the day. We are well aware of the damaging effects as well.
As per data, the victims of cyberbullying are 1.9 times more likely to commit suicide which is heart-wrenching. Moreover, 68% of the children who have gone through cyberbullying have experienced mental health problems.
How can you protect your child from cyberbullying?
Kids being vulnerable turn to parents for help. Globally, 73% of children look to parents more than any other resource for help with online safety which is good. Because often we see kids hiding facts in other cases which can be harmful in the long run. However, parents are always not well aware and equipped to handle security breaches.
While 56% of parents globally protect their smartphone with a password, only 42% of parents said they do the same for their child’s smartphone. Because often they are not aware of the consequences.
Here are some ways in which you can be alert and take precautions if your child is being cyberbullied.
1) Educate your child about cyberbullying
2) Monitor their usage over the Internet
3) Ask them to inform you if they feel that they are being cyberbullied
4) Block the bully
5) Communicate with your child and support them
6) Keep a check on sites that they are accessing online
7) Inform the school if it is an issue related to the school
8) Be a part of your child’s online world
9) Block the bully and inform relevant authorities (so that similar incidents do not happen to other kids)
10) Know more and be aware of the anti-bullying laws and regulations
The level of concern about cyberbullying and abuse on social media among Indian parents was 47%, which is lower than the global average of 57% by 10%. So, parents need to be more aware of the situation and know what measures can be taken and how.
Several authoritative bodies and committees have put down various rules and laws to counter cyberbullying. There are guidelines laid out by UGC as well against the prohibition of ragging and bullying.
Talk to the school or the local authorities to be aware of them. Do not be a bystander if you see some other child being cyberbullied as well. Your child could be next. So, be aware, be cautious, and help your child against the evils of cyberbullying in an effective way and in time.