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Cyber Bullying

14-year-old Sanya has been having a tough time in school. Since her growth spurt a few years ago, her weight has fluctuated. Her classmates make ‘fat jokes’, push her into bushes and tease her by leaving traces of food on her bench. A few days ago, a classmate uploaded a picture of Sanya eating online, because of which her social media was flooded with abuses and insults, calling her “ugly”, “beastly” and “forever hungry”. After the incident, Sanya speaks very little to her classmates and hides away as much as possible. Even at home, she remains withdrawn and quiet. Before the online hazing, the one thing that made her happy was going home. Now, she feels worried and anxious at home as well. Her safe space has been infiltrated.

The above-fictionalized narrative depicts the emotions of children subjected to cyber bullying.

What is Cyber Bullying and how is it different from other types of bullying?

Cyber bullying, also called online bullying or cyber harassment is a form of bullying, or behavior intended to harm another, on an online platform. (Slonje et al, 2012).

It differs from traditional, or offline bullying, as it transpires on the Internet. However, there is a high chance of both forms of bullying occurring together, (59.7%, Schneider et al, 2012). The two forms of bullying also differ slightly in their demographics. While traditional bullying is more prevalent among boys, cyber bullying, is equally likely to occur for both girls and boys (Microsoft study, 2012). Additionally, traditional bullying tends to decrease as children move from middle school to high school, while cyber bullying tends to increase as children move into adolescence (Schneider et al, 2012).

How prevalent is it in India?

India ranks third out 25 countries in the number of cases related to cyber bullying worldwide. A study performed by Microsoft in the year 2012, revealed that 53% of children in India, between the ages of 8-17 faced some sort of online bullying.

Harassment

wherein the bully persistently sends out rude or defamatory messages on online platforms.

Outing

wherein the bully makes private information public.

Masquerading

Wherein the bully creates a fake identity to harass someone anonymously.

The psychological impact of cyber bullying:

Similar to traditional bullying, Cyber bullying has been found to cause a range of psychological problems for bullies themselves, and their victims. Some reports suggest that the harm can be even greater if coupled with traditional bullying. This is because electronic communications allow cyber bullying perpetrators to maintain anonymity and distance themselves from the person they are bullying.

Further, bullies tend to suffer from anger management, anxiety, and low confidence. Victims, on the other hand, face damaging effects to their self-esteem, which result in a variety of problems such as poor performance in school or college, self-harm, social anxiety, major depression and in extreme cases – suicide.

Change in behavior regarding going online.

  • Children can go from being glued to their computer to avoiding it completely.
  • Keep in mind that children who spend a lot of time online are also more likely to be cyber bullied.

Mood swings, particularly after using their laptop or phone.

Change in eating patterns

  • This can be true especially if your child is being body shamed online.

Avoidance of social interaction

  • Your child could be enduring traditional bullying while being cyber bullied as well.

Slipping grades.

CAllow for open conversations with children. This is true for schools/ educational institutions and for parents as well.

Be cautious about the way you approach the solution: If a child is telling you about being a victim, chances are, he or she is already very psychologically disturbed by it. While making a decision about how to react, make sure you do so calmly.

Keep in mind that sometimes telling the parent of the bully might actually make the situation worse because:

  • This might adversely affect the your child, i.e. he/she could be bullied further for telling a parent/teacher or guardian.
  • It is hard for parents to accept that their child is a bully. Hence they might be dismissive about the issue as well.

Ensure that any decision you make is well planned, with the victim’s psychology in mind.

If you are suffering from online bullying or know someone who is, please contact our partner helplines immediately.

iCALL
022-25521111
Parivarthan
080- 65333323
Sahai
080 – 25497777
Sumaitri
011-23389090
Sneha
044-24640050
Aasra
022-27546669
Lifeline
033-24637401
COOJ
0832-2252525

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