Bullies are just desolate people looking for interesting reactions. And their actions come in myriad forms – one of them being subtle, emotional, and from behind-the-screens, popularly known as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying involves the sending of unsolicited hate and malicious remarks to someone, online. It has come out as the most toxic form of bullying due to its ‘open’ nature as online platforms, nowadays, are easily accessible.
In simple terms, Cyberbullying is the use of these social networks like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook to badger, pester or threaten an individual. Its usually done by the youngsters because they have the privilege to access the internet at this early age. They usually talk as an anonymous person out of the fear of being caught. But, somehow, they still choose to continue doing these kinds of activities. This gives them the confidence of doing the mistake without giving it a second thought as it does not involve any physical work or in-person meetings.
Cyberbullying also includes dominating their character, posting their morphed pictures and blackmailing, sending random intimidating messages, and so on. The victim needn’t panic during these situations. Rather he or she can ignore the threats and reduce their screen time. It is not really possible to delete the entire content of what has been posted on the internet as it somehow goes into the cloud. It might disappear right away as we delete it, but it is there with someone, somewhere. Cyberbullying usually humiliates the individual and breaks their character into pieces. It affects them mentally. And, it really takes a long time for the victim to come out of it. Yes, we do have a certain team who can track the person behind the threat, but according to me, I would say, Prevention is better than cure.
The Hate They Give – Quantifying the Impact
Be it on gaming platforms or social media, everyone is equally exposed to online bullying by others. This is primarily because of how technology and the internet are being exploited for such wrong practices.
According to UNICEF, reportedly, one in five students have skipped school due to cyberbullying and harassment. This points to the ordeals the younger generation is subjected to on the internet. An Ofcom study revealed that one in eight adolescents had been victims of online bullying. Another survey, conducted by an anti-bullying community, discovered that more than half of the total respondents admitted to having experienced bullying on giant social networks like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. Further, 56 percent of the total bullying on social media occurs in private chat groups.
However, sadly, social media is not the commonplace of such happenings. Another popular platform where teens have admitted to being bullied is gaming. The major causes have been ascribed to anonymity and no fear of repercussions and punishment. This height of ignorance is aggravated by the fact that 81 percent of the bullies assume that they can get away with it.
Ensuring Kids’ Privacy Online
Gone are the days when mobile phones were a luxury, merely possessed by ‘grown-ups’. Today, as appalling it might be, around 80 percent of teenagers and kids can be witnessed with a cell in hand and they are easily able to get content from social media. So, the question which arises here is, “Are you, as a parent or guardian, safeguarding your children from predators and ill-suited content online?”
How to protect a kid’s online privacy?
You need to have an eye on what kind of activities your kids do on the internet. Limiting to share personal information such as an address, phone number, and school location on online. Posting pictures every day about every little thing can be avoided as it might keep the stranger updated. It is not necessary to reply to all the messages. Sometimes kids might not be able to identify which is the original account or fake account. They might get into those fake account traps. And, they start replying to those messages and then block or report that account. But, these strangers will create a new account and start doing the same thing all over again. So, it is better to warn the kids to be aware.
For now, I think conducting webinars for the parents and telling them the pros and cons of cyberbullying. They need to know that even if something bad happens, that there are ways to come out of it and recover. Parents need not panic and scold their kids for using the internet. In any incident, the victim should not be questioned or punished. So, instead of scolding, their parents should teach their kids to enable the private modes and use their social media accounts.
Other few things the parents can do their children are:-
- Limit Screen time
- Restrict certain websites
- Keep an eye on what they do.
Children do not understand the real-life consequences, and they do what they like, but it’s the parents’ duty to guide them on the right path. There are many Online protection tools that have parent-control options. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) will protect kids who are younger than 13 when they are online.
Well, if you aren’t already, here are a few tips to get started:
The primary and the most basic way of getting a clear picture of your kid’s online presence is to talk to them. Engage your child in a conversation centred around their internet activity and be sure to ask them about any negative or disturbing experiences faced by them online. Know who their online buddies are.
Always remember that it’s not a one-way conversation. From your end, teach them about the precautions they should take while they’re online such as avoiding interactions with strangers and representing themselves with utmost care.
2. Parental Controls:
Sometimes, a child might end up landing where they didn’t intend to. Such instances are common and, often, many people are directed to sites containing sexual or violent content, which is surely where you wouldn’t want your child to be. To prevent your child’s being redirected to these sites and advertisements, you can set up parental controls to supervise what they get to see and do online.
One prominent example of a parental control or restrictions tool is the SafeSearch Filters feature, provided by Google. Using this, one can ensure that the search results are filtered accurately with minimal or no violent and sexual material.
3.The How-to of Protecting Online Privacy:
Privacy, psychologically, is the most valued asset one can own. To prevent your kids from getting involved in troubles related to information-sharing and leakage, remind them of these simple things daily:
- Never share personal details and private pictures with anyone online.
- Never reply to a malicious message, comment, email, or post.
- Avoid talking to unknown personalities whether on social media or in games and never plan get-togethers or meet-ups with online friends without parental guidance and supervision.
- Talk to your parents about any disturbing incident on the internet.
4. Being Social-Network Savvy:
Raise privacy-sagacious kids, who are acquainted with the potential dangers online. Set up a ‘Code of Conduct’ for their social media presence. Keep them updated about basic things like keeping their locations private, not responding to inappropriate texts, and reporting any kind of insecurity to you or any trusted adult.
5. Monitoring Online Time and Activity:
Keep devices and gadgets near you so that you know exactly when your children are using them. Set screen time limits on mobile phones to avoid over-usage. In addition to controlling the time spent online, monitor their activity, too. Ensure that they seek your advice before posting anything on social media.
These precautionary measures, along with your personalised set of rules, can help in reducing your child’s exposure to cyberbullying. Also, in case of online bullying, keep the evidence safe for effective action against the bullies.
6. Talk to Someone You Trust
Most experts believe that the first step you need to take is to tell an adult whom you trust. Individuals who are cyberbullied may feel ashamed or hesitant to disclose being bullied. Some may delay since they’re not 100 percent sure who is bullying them. But harassment could get worse, so talk up before you find somebody to support. Even the police will track down an unidentified online murderer, so it’s always worth reporting.
In this generation of high-speed internet and technology, cyberbullying is rapidly growing all over the world. This activity is harmful to both kids and adults. But you can protect yourself by using the internet carefully. Most of the cyberbullying take place via the social media platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, and many more.
We hope that by reading the article above, you have gotten an idea about how dangerous cyberbullying can be. Keep the key points in mind and keep yourself safe online.
The impact of bullying, irrespective of the medium and form, goes deep and is irreversible. Unlike texts and comments, the negative effect of cyberbullying can neither be unsent nor be deleted. Hence, it becomes a prime responsibility of ours to abstain from participating in and encouraging bullying and harassment online. Instead, let’s create a positive social space where everybody feels safe. And if you do sense some rule-breaking there, now you know what to do!