A few weeks ago, I faced one of the hardest situations a parent can face, because my 5 year old daughter was being bullied at park. At first, it was difficult to accept that bullying could take place in such small kids. Then I could not understand how my universally liked, affable and charming daughter was being bullied by a particular child. As much as I wanted to intervene and sort this out, I could not. I had to let my daughter handle the situation and come out stronger, while being there to support her through this phase. It was my first jolt, my first introduction to what problems, nightmares and ordeals as a parent I might have to navigate through and protectmy child from.
But this problem pales to the demon that a lot of children in India are facing. The demon of Cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying, literally means harassing or causing harm to vulnerable targets mostly teenagers by means of internet and mobile technologies. As the prevalence of computers & phones increases among kids in India and lack of internet safety awareness, kids are more prone to be targeted for bullying over social media networks.
India ranks third in cyberbullying among kids
Even though most Indian parents are unaware about cyberbullying, India ranks a disturbing 3rd after China and Singapore in cyberbullying among kids. According to a study by Microsoft, 1 in 5 children in India have experienced what can be termed as online bullying. According to another study by IPSOS, India reports the highest percentage of kids being bullied at 32%, compared to 15% in US and 13% in UK.
What does a cyberbullying case look like?
Photoshopping the victim’s faces onto nude bodies and circulating it online.
Taking hidden pictures or hidden cam videos and sharing it online
The cyberbully posts details like email ids, address and phone number of the victims on social media networks which exposes them to perverts and harassers.
Targeting the victim with jokes, slander, hate messages or leaking their secrets online
Cyberbully hacking into the victim’s accounts and send hurtful messages pretending to be them.
Creating hate communities which specifically target the victim and bombard them with messages like “you are a loser”, “why don’t you die” and worse “everyone hates you”
Why is Cyber-bullying dangerous?
Cyberbullying unlike other forms of bullying can happen 24X 7, there is no escape from it. Since it happens mostly in tweens and teens, parents are usually the last ones to know about it. Also kids are wary of telling parents in fear of losing their internet access and freedom. Unlike other forms of bullying where parents can intervene to an extent, in cyberbullying once a hate post or a malicious image is on the internet, it is difficult even for the parents to take it down or curb its existence.
Cyberbullying can cause low self-esteem, depression, skipping school and worse, suicide.
Works with a number of schools through her Anti-Bullying-Campaign (ABC). I spoke with Chetnaa about cyberbullying among children in India and here is what she had to share.
As India is 3rd in cyberbulllying after China and Singapore, parents, teachers, and government bodies should proactively be involved in educating children on laws of cyber bullying. Children do face a lot of cyber bullying.One may walk out of a situation which involves physical and verbal bullying, however, in the cyber space, you could only delete a Facebook comment if it is on your wall! So, this could lead to major consequences. Internet has taken bullying to a whole new level. And when it’s online, there is no place to hide.
The IT Act, 2000 states punishment to all those publishing information which is obscene as also to any form of breach in privacy and confidentiality. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) also covers this issue. Apart from legal help, victims can also hire private investigators specialising in tracking down cyber bullies. For those who want to find the culprit on their own, you can simply Google Reverse E-mail Finder to find a list of websites which can help you unmask the bully. These websites primarily track the email address down to its user and returns the users identity as also some other personal information.
The schools must follow an approach wherein students are taken through lesson or session by teachers or counsellors in Emotional management, Problem Solving, Empathy and Assertiveness Skills. The schools could also have a “Family Engagement” program. The parents must also be actively involved in sensitization programs. Parents should be educated and then in turn they too educate their children on what is good and acceptable to do while exploring the cyber space and what is not.
How to protect your kids from Cyberbullying
Even though schools need to take various measures to protect kids and create awareness about Internet safety, the fight against cyberbullying needs to start with the parents. Here are the
Top 5 Must Dos for every parent to tackle cyberbullying
Google your child’s name and see what is out there. Comb through your child’s social media pictures and see if there is anything inappropriate. Make sure the privacy settings are ON and there is no personal details posted publicly.
Find out how to report cyberbullying and ask your child’s school about their policies around the topic.If you find evidence of cyberbullying, print out the evidence, take screenshots and report it.
Be aware about existing social media networking sites like facebook, twitter, pinterest and the upcoming ones like snapchat, vine etc to protect your kids. Talk to your kids about internet safety tips, cyber safety tips, cyberbullying, sexting and other dangers on the internet.
Never treat cyberbullying as a joke. Whether your child is at the receiving end or is the bully, you need to take charge of the situation and help to resolve. Never encourage kids to post hurtful messages, tease or slander someone on the internet.