Cyber bullying, also known as online bullying is misusing digital-communication tools (such as the Internet and cell phones) to deliberately and repeatedly behave in a manner intended to harass, threaten, humiliate or harm others.
It includes sending/sharing hurtful or abusive messages or emails, humiliating others by posting/sharing embarrassing videos or images over social media platforms, spreading rumors or lies online, setting up fake online profiles, excluding others online, repeated harassment and threatening messages (cyber stalking), Cyber bullying, is merely, a modern form of bullying performed that has been considered as being worse than traditional bullying in its consequences for the victim.
Currently, amid remote teaching due to school closure in the wake of COVID-19, there are growing fears about the rise of cyber bullying and its impact on children. Unlike traditional face-to-face bullying, online bully can conceal their identity online and target victims constantly without the limits of location or time. And kids have more chances of getting exposed to it.
A lack of reporting of cyber bullying and its low visibility when compared to face-to-face bullying make it difficult to gauge its true extent and impact. However, investigating rates of cyber bullying is extremely complex. Even teachers find cyber bullying to be more serious than face-to-face bullying because there are always new ways for children to bully online through new apps and technologies, making it difficult to identify and respond to cyber bullying. Youngsters also believe that cyber bullying is more serious and more challenging in the school environment than face-to-face bullying.
However, it is difficult to truly assess how widespread cyber bullying is, because children tend to hide cyber bullying, may be due to fear of consequences or embarrassment. It has been reported that children’s worries include that telling someone about cyber bullying will make the situation worse or lead to the confiscation of their electronic devices. They are also concerned about not knowing what the repercussions of reporting cyber bullying might be.
According to the findings of a recent Ofcom Report, cyber bullying is not more of a widespread problem than real-life bullying. It found that older children aged 12-15 are just as likely to experience “real life” bullying as bullying on social media. Younger children aged eight to 11 were found to be more likely to experience traditional bullying (14%) than online bullying (8%).Another research found that traditional bullying takes place more often than cyber bullying. In fact, 2017 study in England of 120,115 15-year-olds found rates of traditional bullying to be far higher.
So, what should you do if your kid is bullied online?
In this article, we bring to you few tips to help you identify and support if your kids are getting bullied online, and also how you can protect them.
Undoubtedly, parents get emotional when their kids get bullied because victims of cyber bullying get into a vulnerable state. Being a parent, you need to check how you respond to your child, and how you proceed with any actions. It is very important. So, to identify whether your kid is bullied online, you can do the following:
- Your first task should be to listen to your child without judgment, blame, or attempting to jump in and ‘solve’ it.
- In a friendly-manner, ask questions about their internet use and online classes. Later, if you doubt, ask more questions to discover what bully have they come across, how long the cyber bullying has been going on, the names of those involved (if known), and the forms of cyber bullying used. If you find any evidence of the cyber bullying – for example, some saved text messages, posts, websites, etc. -then have your child show these to you and save these for documentation should it be needed. If the bullying includes any realistic physical threat of harm report it to your local law enforcement office at the earliest.
- You may also assess your child’s behavior as it changes if they suffer from anything.
- Acknowledge your child’s pain and do nothing that makes your child feel any more isolated.
- You also need to ask your child to be honest with you about any forms of retaliation they make have taken. Let them know that the truth will come out someday when their cyber bully is confronted, and they will be in far worse shape if they haven’t been transparent about their own behavior.
- If your child or teen retaliated with their own cyber bullying, you should discuss about the inappropriateness of their behavior and what the consequences will be. Ask them to be honest and not to choose “blame game.”
- After understanding the scope of the problem, what role your child played in it, and how your child feels, take the next step i.e. assess what support your child needs and the best way to achieve this support, and then take immediate steps to address the issue.
- Take preventative measures online to block cyber bullies from contacting your child and report cyber bullies to the service providers where the cyber bullying occurred.
Considering the increasing cases of cyber bullying in India, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has launched a distinct helpline (firstname.lastname@example.org) to report cyber bullying, online harassment, and cyber defamation, particularly against women and children. [Ref]
How Can You Protect Your Kids from Becoming a Victim to Cyber Bully?
- Place the computer in a common area of the home or from where you can keep an eye on them and monitor their online usage.
- Teach them online and digital tool use etiquettes.
- Learn about social networking apps and sites work. Ask your children if they will show you their profile pages or add you in their profiles.
- Often talk with your children about online issues. Let them know they can come to you for help if any inappropriate, upsetting, or dangerous thing happens.
- Set time internet limits, explain your reasons for them, and discuss rules for online safety and usage
- Ask them to not to respond to any cyber bullying threats or comments online or delete any of the messages. Instead, save out all the messages, including the email addresses or social media handles of the cyber bully.
- Don't blame children, if they are being bullied, be supportive and understanding.
- Also don't under-react by telling your children to "shrug it off" or just ignore the bully,it will get over sometime.
- Don't threaten to take away their phone or computer if they come to you with a problem. If you do, they will start hiding and become secretive.
- Talk to your school's guidance counselors to keep a check to prevent for bullying during (online) school day.