Written by Team ParentCircle and published on 09 June 2021.
Cyberbullying becomes a possibility once our children log into the digital world. Read on to know what is cyberbullying, how to prevent cyberbullying and all about cyberbullying laws.
Bullying, nowadays, is no longer restricted to school and college campuses, playgrounds, and parks. Riding piggyback on the digital revolution has taken the form of cyberbullying and follows us wherever we go. Both children and adults can be victims of cyberbullying. It can happen at any time and place and can be perpetrated through email, text messages, videos and images, and social media. Even the safe confines of our home offer no protection from cyberbullying.
The perpetrators of cyberbullying can be classmates, online friends, or strangers. The 2016 Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report states that, globally, 48% of parents feel that there is a higher likelihood of their children being bullied online than elsewhere.
The US National Crime Prevention Council defines cyberbullying as "the process of using the Internet, cell phones or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person."
In simple terms, harassment of an individual using the Internet, cell phone, or other digital devices can be termed cyberbullying. It involves sending offensive text messages, posting sensitive information or hateful comments about the victim, video shaming, and so on.
According to law, cyberbullying has three major components:
The following are the most common sources of cyberbullying:
With time, cyberbullying has evolved to take many forms. Here are some common types of cyberbullying:
India, unfortunately, is emerging as the global capital of cyberbullying. Here are a few studies that raise concerns about this menace.
Here are a few cyberbullying incidents that happened in India recently:
Exposure to cyberbullying can have many adverse effects on a child. Some of them are:
The best way to prevent cyberbullying is to sensitize children about its negative effect. Schools should conduct workshops on cyberbullying because most children nowadays have social media accounts on platforms like Whatsapp or Facebook.
Parents need to be made aware as well about how and why to not allow children to use electronic communication devices as 'toys'. They should also talk to their children more, monitor their online activity, teach them not to reveal their personal details to strangers, explain the dangerous effects of cyberbullying, and spot any abnormal changes in their behavior or attitude.
If it is clear, or parents suspect, that a child is being cyberbullied, the matter should be reported to the concerned authorities. Here's what parents should do:
Although there are no specific laws to regulate cyberbullying in India, we do have Section 66A of the Information Technology Act. This Act prescribes the punishment for sending annoying, offensive, and insulting communication through digital and information communication technology.
Given below are some other laws that can be used to tackle cyberbullying:
Although there are laws to penalize bullying, only a few victims and their families report instances of cyberbullying. A majority prefer to stay silent and hope that things will improve on their own.
To bring about a change in the mindset, there are some key issues that policymakers should consider. For example, the policymakers should adopt child-friendly policies which explain why cyberbullying is dangerous to children as well as to society. I feel broad discussions on these should be done in consultation with experts on cybercrime, lawyers, academics, child-rights activists, and educationists.
Also, it is important to define the academic or legal definition of bullying. In his book 'Cyber Bullying: Profile and Policy Guidelines', eminent criminologist Dr K Jaishankar defines cyberbullying as "abuse/ harassment by teasing or insulting the victims' body shape, intellect, family background, dress sense, mother tongue, place of origin, attitude, race, caste, or class using modern telecommunication networks such as mobile phones and Internet."
It would be wrong to say that cyberbullying is rampant only in India. Even countries with stringent laws and regulations like the USA, Canada, and the UK are struggling to control cyberbullying. However, unlike in India, people in these countries consider it important to tackle cyberbullying, especially when the victims are school-going children. Schools have rules to deal with cyberbullying. Not only school principals and class teachers, but also counselors, and in certain cases, legal authorities get involved to deal with cyberbullying.
There is a debate going on about whether parents can be held liable for their children's misuse of communication devices. This is an important point to consider, even in the Indian context.
To sum up, parents need to be aware that cyberbullying is not restricted to children of a certain age group. Parents should work in tandem with their children and ensure that they are well-informed. This will help children cope with cyberbullying whenever they experience it.