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CYBERBULLYING



The humanitarian crisis has cultivated a ‘New Normal’ vitality for all of us. Ranging from quarantine greenhouse dates to online classes and good-byes, we all have harmonized to the culture. Technology played an integral role in maintaining the continuity as it brought new dimensions to the responsibilities of educators and mentors. 

But we need self-introspection to rethink the ethical use of technology. If Zoom is that easy to hack into, it’s likely to expect kids and teens trying to follow suit. The era where gadgets are the ‘toys’ for the kids plus the ‘Lockdown’ has increased the fear of ‘Cyberbullying.






 

Cyberbullying is defined as “sending or posting harmful or cruel text or images using the Internet or other digital communication devices”. Cyberbullying involves the use of information and communication technologies, such as e-mail, cell phone and pager text messages, instant messaging, defamatory personal Websites, and defamatory online personal polling Websites, to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or group that is intended to harm. 




In India, an estimated 71 million children aged between 5-11 years access the Internet on devices of their family members, constituting about 14 percent of the country's active Internet user base of over 500 million. Two-thirds of internet users in India are in the age group of 12-29 year (Data shared by the Internet & Mobile Association of India). Data and statistics have highlighted that post lockdown, the internet has amplified the risk of cyberbullying, including online discrimination for children and young people.

 

Cyberbullying ranges from flaming to Catfishing. 



Flaming is a confrontation often happens in online spaces, which entails one or more bullies attacking a particular person for their views or comments.



Exclusion is singling-out of the targeted person and to purposefully exclude them from chats.



Cyberstalking is a type of harassment that involves one or more bullies going to great lengths to gather information about a particular person, continually frightening or threatening them, following them around social media and other sites, and potentially crossing the line into physical stalking.



Outing is the malicious release of private information about a person to embarrass or humiliate by spreading rumours about someone’s personal life, sexuality etc. through pictures, screenshots, videos.



Masquerading is creating a fake identity to harass someone anonymously or to impersonate someone else, often called “fraping,” such as pretending to be the victim or a significant other to create a negative reputation for the victim. 



Trolling is to provoke victims through the use of insults, controversial topics or off-topic posts into acting out in a similarly angry way.



Catfishing refers specifically to those cyberbullies who steal photos and information from a victim’s social media account and recreate a fake one of their own, mimicking and pretending to be the victim. 



Students with higher risk of being bullied are often targeted because of their visible appearance, 

Of all children who are bullied, more than one third reported bias-based bullying, a form of bullying that targets someone because of who they are or what they look like. Potential victims include LGBTQ youth, students with disabilities, and religious students, especially those who wear symbols of their religion. Students with a higher risk of being bullied are often targeted because of their visible appearance.

Girls and young women are targeted due to body image or sexuality, and are more often harassed over social media. Girls are more likely than boys to be victims of cyberbullying; bullying statistics show that 38% of girls who use social media report being bullied online, compared to 26% of boys.



 



 



Cyberbullying Self-Harm



 



If left unchecked, the effects of cyberbullying can lead to extreme stress and depression, and students who are victims may feel drawn to self-harm as a result of their experiences. 

However, the victims of bullying are not the only ones who are vulnerable to self-harm and suicidal behaviours. 

Young people who cyberbully others are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing these feelings than those who don’t.



Cyberbullying can be devastating for victims and their families. The psychological harm inflicted by cyberbullying, just like bullying, is reflected in low self-esteem, school failure, anger, anxiety, depression, school avoidance, school violence, and suicide. 

It is even possible that the damage from cyberbullying would be greater than bullying because there is no escape for the victims; harmful material could be easily preserved as well as quickly and widely spread.



 



For the cyberbullies, the consequences of their actions can be very severe, including being suspended or expelled from school and being removed from sports teams, clubs, and activities. Certain types of cyberbullying can even be considered criminal.



 




What did students do after they were cyberbullied? 




Apparently, only a few try to take revenge; the majority of students chose not to inform anyone. Some chose to get away from the cyberbully. Few try to take revenge on the cyberbully or bully others.  

Some inform parents and siblings. Few students reported to school adults (e.g., teachers, school administrators).



“If you were cyberbullied at school or at home, would you report the incident to a school counselor, teacher, or administrator?”

 ‘NO’, that’s what most of the students answer.



 




The secret of Cyberbullying being SECRETIVE




The fear of not being understood, made fun of kept most of the teens away from reporting to their educators. The thought of them getting into trouble either because of being at fault or for no reason made them escape from the best advice. 

‘Why are you exacerbating the problem?

Parents remarks like: ‘We are restricting your access to technology. So, No Phone, No Social Media.”

Some thought it was “no big deal.” 

The above reasons reflect the importance of teaching students about, ‘ Cyber threats’. 



 




What are students' beliefs about cyberbullying? Why do they think people behave this way?




Some think various factors cause the problem, ranging from feeling insecure, angry, jealous, or mean, to feeling bored or having family issues. A troubling finding, however, is that the majority believe that cyberbullies do it for fun. 



Even more disturbing is the fact that one in five perceived cyberbullying as a “cool” act. This might be explained by students' perception that technology is exciting. These students might think that using it for aggressive acts is creative. Further, they might not realize the seriousness of cyberbullying.

 For example, one student's narrative, “I bully online and it does not mean anything,” demonstrates that some fail to see the negative effect of cyberbullying or bullying on victims. The actual reason behind this perception is unclear; nonetheless, it deserves our serious consideration because this is a potentially dangerous perception.



 Some think that nothing can be done about Cyber victims. Some summarize this feeling: “No one cares. Deal with it yourself.” Some hold the belief that this is a serious problem and needs to be stopped. 

Another serious theme emerged relating to freedom of speech. One in six students considered that people have the right to say anything they want, even if what they say hurts someone or violates someone's privacy. 



 



So, How can we combat cyberbullying yet respect and exercise our freedom of expression? 






Although we understand that there is no absolute freedom of speech, balancing the two is the ultimate question.

One out of three students believes that what happens online should stay online which reflects a general perception that cyberspace is separated from the real world. But what we do online affects what we do in real life. 




 



Designing educational systems: Creating our future in a changing world



Addressing cyberbullying should be a collective effort on the part of schools, families, students, and society. Because cyberbullying happens outside of school boundaries, schools might direct such issues back to parents, saying that they have no legal jurisdiction. However, cyberbullying can be rooted in school or vice versa, even if the incidents appear to be initiated using school property. This requires schools to consider the development of comprehensive programs to fight cyberbullying, including detailed and unified policies as well as effective programs to educate students. 




Establishment of Systematic Programs 




First, schools need to establish systematic programs to stop cyberbullying. Such programs should develop strong policies on both traditional bullying and cyberbullying.

 Administrators should investigate current acceptable-use policies for technology (e.g., mobile, Internet) in the schools. Telling others such as school adults or family members remains an effective strategy for combating cyberbullying. 

It is important to establish easy and multiple ways of reporting. For example, we could create help lines (e.g., a phone line), e‐mail, or Web links, and provide a box or similar device in hot spots in schools so students can report incidents or offer suggestions anonymously.



 




Teaching about Cyberbullying




Second, schools should educate school adults, students, and parents about cyberbullying and provide clear procedures to follow when cyberbullying occurs.

 At the fundamental level, adults, including teachers and parents, need to keep pace with new technology to understand how students communicate and how cyberbullying happens. Effective strategies, therefore, need to be included in school adults' professional development opportunities. Schools can also provide opportunities for parents to learn such strategies.

 

Similarly, approaches to cyberbullying issues need to go beyond the one-time workshop mode for students and be part of regular curriculum learning. 



Such education can take place in different school situations, including classrooms, assemblies, and continuing education programs. For example, schools can use forums not only to mediate between cyberbullies and cyber victims, but also to offer opportunities for students to develop adaptive skills, such as dealing with emotional conflict and building positive behavioral patterns. Such forums help to build a strong rapport and trustworthy relationships between students and school adults as well as among students. 



 




Responsibilities associated with the use of Technology 




Students, a key group in fighting cyberbullying, need to learn responsibilities associated with the use of technology. They should be aware of the consequences of misuse of technology so that responsible behaviours can be promoted at an early age. They need to understand the dangers that exist and the importance of getting help from responsible adults when cyberbullying occurs. 



 



PANDEMIC & MAKING THE BEST USE OF IT 



 



Cyberbullying has been on the rise before lock down – some reports suggest that just 20% of bullying takes place at school now. The strain placed on mental health caused by being confined to the home for weeks at a time could be making matters worse. These unusual circumstances means that some kids may be venting their frustration online – and their classmates become the targets.



With the aim of addressing these concerns, the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and UNESCO New Delhi Office developed an information booklet titled “Safe online learning in the times of COVID-19” to raise awareness of students and teachers on staying safe online. The booklet will be instrumental in keeping children, young people safe online through basic do’s, and don’ts that will help parents and educators teach their children how to use the internet safely.






“UNESCO is committed to ensure access to safe, inclusive and health promoting learning environments for all children. It is imperative that websites, digital platforms, social media platforms are free of Cyberbullying, if children have to access quality education. This information booklet titled ‘Safe online learning in times of Covid19’ highlights the negative consequences of cyberbullying and ways to eliminate and prevent the same”. UNESCO and NCERT are pleased to develop this booklet and hope that it acts as a valuable tool in creating a safer online environment.”

                        -Eric Falt, Director and Representative, UNESCO New Delhi




 



 



Pandemic and Parents : Working together



 



With COVID-19 closing schools in many states, children are turning to online schooling and with this comes a huge increase in device use by most children and teens. This is actually a wonderful opportunity for parents to spend some time talking with their child as to what cyberbullying means, and to talk through issues their child may be experiencing. It is also a great time for parents to establish guidelines and take the time to check-in and ensure that their child’s online behaviour is acceptable.



Younger children and tweens really should not be having “privacy” from their parents online. Parents need to be empowered to oversee what their elementary and middle school children are doing and with whom they are chatting. 

To think there wouldn’t be any cyberbullying during this time would be unrealistic, especially with so many children having excess frustration and a lot of free time. There will be children who take that frustration out on other kids. Parents need to be conscious of this possibility and schedule check-ins both to ensure their child is okay and behaving appropriately. 



With parents and children home, most households are getting back to family dinners. Parents can use those dinners not just to discuss cyberbullying but to talk about how their children are feeling in general — if they are feeling isolated, lonely or stressed. 



Although our concern is of course cyberbullying, what we are more likely to see is kids reaching out to one another as a support system. The upside to having all this connectivity is that sad and lonely children may actually have increased support.



We often see this in children who are hospitalized. They can feel very isolated. Having that virtual connection, the online social availability of their friends, really helps combat some of those feelings of loneliness and isolation. The hope would be that the social aspect of the connection that's going on in many homes right now with increased device use will outpace any uptick in cyberbullying. But it will be up to parents to make sure they are providing the guidance and supervision necessary to ensure that these online interactions are positive ones.



 




Human race has proven to overcome from all extremes the world has gone through may be it is a Plague, World Wars, Great Recession and many more. We have learnt lessons and we need to adapt and evolve every time and it’s a never ending process. This reminds of words of great genius Albert Einstein  that, “ Everything is Relative.”

Einstein gifted us with his inventions during the pandemic. Let us wait for the next ‘Science Genius’ from this Pandemic. It can be ‘YOU’. So, Let us work together to prevent the online propagated method of bullying.



#cyberbullying #ncert #students #technology 

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