It is no doubt that the digital age has greatly aided our lives to make it quicker, easier and on the go. However, the boons of this digital world come with its fair share of drawbacks and concerns. As people become more connected through online media, their tendency to meddle in each other’s life become more prominent. Internet makes the concept of hate and revenge less far-reaching, thus encouraging users to repeatedly attempt to abuse or misbehave with others online.

Cyberbullying is the umbrella term for all forms of online abuse and mistreatment manifested through mentions of mean comments, negative rumours, persistent poking, sending sexually suggestive messages, putting indecent pictures of the person online amongst other things. It is the most common form of teen abuse and violence with long-term effects on mental, physical and emotional health of the victims. In this light, online safety must remain our strong concern.

Common avenues of Cyberbullying include:

  • Frequent SMS and texts often containing sexual innuendos
  • Poking on social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
  • Posting negative comments or indecent remarks about a person online
  • Posting potentially harmful pictures of another person without consent
  • Online blackmailing or threatening
  • Stealing personal data and using it to undertake illegal activities

Apart from these, any form of online conversation that has the potential to disturb the life of a common person can come under cyberbullying. It can lead to mental anxiety, depression and even suicide among kids. Since online content remains largely unfiltered, teens are most vulnerable to abuse and harm. Sometimes, it takes the grave form of unlawful and criminal activities.

Digital Trust Dialogues by SheThePeople and Google

Escaping real identities online

Anonymity remains a big reason for social media to become a harbour for bullies. It has made it easier for people to post anything and everything, along with reducing the burden of accountability. As a result, more people feel free to make fake ids and start the string of hate or rumours about a person they have known. Such public display of hatred ultimately results in a loss of reputation for the victim causing immense mental turmoil and agony.

According to Cyber bullying statistics from the i-SAFE foundation:

  • Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.
  • More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyberthreats online.
  • Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
  • Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.

What can be done?

Statistics reveal that a large portion of the teen population is exposed to bullying online. Online bullying must not be undermined in its negative impact over children. The due focus must be given to such cases and action should be taken. In order to prevent the teens from taking any drastic step, certain precautions can be used.

The reason why impact of cyberbullying becomes severe is lack of communication.

Talking: It is important to talk to your children about anything he/ she might be experiencing online. Parents can play a firm remedial role. Often, the reason why impact of cyberbullying becomes severe is lack of communication. It will perform a dual function of not just checking up on them but also of sensitizing them. Having an insightful conversation about the harmful effects of online abuse with them can discourage them from doing the same to others.

Cutting out the person: Instead of reverting to hate comments, sometimes it is better to cut off that person in the initial stages. Often, a mean reply in return instigates the abuser to further the fight. The easier way out is to simply block the person and ignore till he/ she finally gives up.

Always keep proof: Often, the problem becomes so severe that blocking doesn’t work. Then approaching the cyber cells or police must be the quickest plan of action. However, teens must keep the messages or any other proof of cyber abuse available with them. Being ashamed or trying to hide it only makes it tougher for the accused to be nabbed.

Cyberbullying is fast emerging as a negative trend in society. We, as adults, need to make sure that teens do not suffer through this alone

Don’t share too much information online: A precautionary method is to self- censor yourself before posting stuff online. Not everything is suitable enough to be shared. Too much information online makes it easier or stalkers, criminals, and frauds to dupe a person. Cyberbullying can be countered if we carefully navigate through online platforms. Staying alert is always important.

Cyberbullying is fast emerging as a negative trend in society. We, as adults, need to make sure that teens do not suffer through this alone. A sense of isolation often leads them into making desperate choices online and falling into traps. Bullying of any form, must be condemned and collective solutions need to be sought. There is probably nothing sadder that deaths due to cyberbullying since it can be controlled and prevented. Parental support is key to countering the effect of online abuse.

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