Cyber Bullying and Ways to tackle it
In simple words, cyber bullying is misuse of information technology to harass or harm other people. It could be in the form of posting negative word or rumours about another person on the internet or social networking sites with an intention to embarrass or humiliate him/her in public. With the increasing use of internet services and mobile technologies, cyber bullying has become frequent, especially among teens. It includes communications that seek to control, defame, manipulate, harass or falsely discredit an individual. The actions are frequent, intentional and hostile intended to tarnish reputation of another individual. These actions are performed in social media, public forums or other online information sites. A cyber bully may be online stranger or it can be an individual whom the victim knows.
Today, the majority of people, particularly young people between age of 12 to 18 spend more time on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and the like. There are numerous risks associated with these sites, among which cyber bullying is most common and widespread. The cyber bully usually posts offensive photos and videos, misleading information or expose secrets about target on these sites to defame him/her. Cyber bullying activities are so harmful that sometimes it compel the victim to commit suicide. There have been a number of cases that involve teenagers committing suicide because of being mistreated or humiliated over the internet.
There are several ways through which cyber bullies, who send nasty emails, can be tracked by police with the help of Internet service providers and thus necessary actions can be taken against cyber bullies. All electronic messages carry information that shows the path that the message has taken to get to the victim’s computer and ISPs are able to track it down.
If an individual is targeted by a cyber bully, it is important not to respond to any posts or message shared by him, regardless of how untrue or harmful it is. Responding to such posts will only worsen the situation as bullies generally intend to provoke a reaction from the target. Sending a threatening message will only encourage the bully to continue bad behavior and it may make the situation out of control. Instead of replying to abusive text messages, emails or other communications; one must save it as evidence against cyber bully and report them to concerned individual, family member or school counsellor and most importantly police so that actions of cyber bully can be prosecuted by law. Recording the date, time and message will also help in determining how to deal with cyber bully. One must also inform incident of any kind of online bullying to parents, guardian, counsellor or trusted friend. Parents should also take the matter seriously and deal with it immediately. They should keep close attention to online activities of their child and should talk with them about what they are doing and with whom they are communicating. As well, parents should encourage their child to inform if he/she receives any malicious messages or is targeted by any cyber bully.
A victim can also delete cyber bully from their social media contacts and can block phone number or email address of cyber bully. Immediately blocking the bully from direct communication will put an end to most invasive threats to great extent. Changing the online account settings as well as limiting the access of personal information to trusted people will also prevent individual against getting bullied.
Schools should also ensure proper safety of their students against bullying. Anti-bullying code of conduct should be implemented by schools that specify what type of behaviors and actions will not be tolerated and its consequences. Safer environment should be created and students should be motivated to freely communicate their concerns or problems they are facing. In addition, anti-bullying programs should be frequently conducted with the help of students in order to create more and more awareness about cyber bullying – what it is, what are its implications and how it can be tackled.
There are various laws that not only address cyber harassment, but also protect cyber bullying victims of any age. Many government and non-government organizations are working to raise awareness about online harassment and promoting positive usage of internet. YouTube has launched Anti-Bullying Channel for youth named as BeatBullying, involving celebrities to promote awareness and ways to tackle cyber bullying.
Apart from all these ways to tackle cyber bullying, one must also understand the needs of preventing cyber bullying before it starts. Following are some steps that can be taken to prevent getting bullied online:
- Never share personal information like home address, date of birth, phone number, name of school/college, etc. or any confidential information online
- Don’t post explicit photos online; it can be used against to harass you. Only limited information should be shared online and that too with close friends.
- Try not to discuss private matters on social networking sites, even with friends.
- Don’t let others take your pictures or videos without your consent.
- Don’t share internet passwords or account details with others
- Be cautious while posting your pictures, messages, attachments or files on the internet or on social media.
- Don’t respond to any instant messages or emails from the harasser. Instead of this, report the incident to police as well as parents so that necessary action can be taken to stop the cyber bully.
- Block any kind of communication with harasser.
- DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS.
- Lastly and most importantly, “THINK” before sharing or posting any information online.
To recapitulate, cyber bullying can be more serious than bullying. Awareness is key to prevent from getting harassed online. Children must be made aware about the consequences of sharing personal information online. Regular campaigns and programs should be conducted at school to teach students about cyber bullying and prevent them against such activities. Cyber bullying cannot be ignored and it is the responsibility of every individual to report such type of behavior immediately to the appropriate authorities so that perpetrator can be accordingly punished.