Cyberbullying hurts both the child who is the victim and the child who is the bully. As parents, we can help our children understand the consequences of their actions and reactions. Here are some tips
By Prabhjyot Kaur
With more and more children entering cyberspace via social media, cyberbullying is a problem that is becoming increasingly common. Cyberbullying is the targeting of a child – teen or pre-teen – using the Internet and digital technology. It can take many forms, including threats, harassment and humiliation. The term is used when both perpetrator and victim are minors (when the perpetrators are adults, it escalates to cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking). Cyberbullying includes sending negative text messages, e-mails and audio messages, sharing the victim’s personal information, personal photos or videos on social media or blogs, or morphing pictures with the intention of bringing down the victim’s self-esteem or outraging modesty.
A survey conducted by Norton (an anti-malware software brand from the house of Symantec), 52 per cent of the children in India are victims of cybercrime and other online negative situations. About 18 per cent said they had been bullied online. As far as gender ratios go, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center, an online resource, “Adolescent girls are significantly more likely to have experienced cyberbullying in their lifetimes (40.6% vs. 28.2%).”
It is important for parents to understand the seriousness of the problem and help and protect their children. Worryingly, 84 per cent of the parents surveyed in the country said they did not think their children were being bullied online. While the Norton study noted that, “70 per cent [of the] children surveyed did say they reached out to their parents when they experienced anything negative online, parents still need to educate themselves and provide confidence to their children to share their bad online experiences with them or another adult.”
Observant parents will be able to detect signs that their children are prey to cyberbullying. These include a reluctance to let parents and other relatives near their mobile phones or laptops, and a desire to spend time alone. Parents need to reassure their children that they will not be punished if they reveal that they are being cyber-bullied. They should repeatedly tell the child that she is not to be blamed for being bullied. Usually, if the child can be encouraged to open up quickly to a parent or other responsible adult, the issue can be sorted out.
Mumbai-based Prabhjyot Kaur is a part of the Safecity Writer’s Movement.
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