Tanya grew up in a Mumbai suburb, like any normal teenager. Unknown to her, a classmate from a previous school had started collecting information and pictures of her since they were 12. The information was then used to make a fake Facebook page, and was shown as if Tanya had posted them herself. Tanya had read about cyber bullying, but had never expected herself to be a victim. She found out about the fake page only through her friends.
Even though the bullying seemed benign in the beginning, soon schoolmates started sending her crude messages and she became isolated from her friends circle. She withdrew to herself, rarely going out, and became depressed. The bullying then got so bad that she had to go for counseling and change schools to start afresh.
Having grown up around gadgets, children rely heavily on them to carry out everyday tasks.
They also form their social persona around social media and depend on these websites to measure their acceptance by their peers.
In an Ipsos survey in 2014, India topped the list of 254 countries for cyber bullying. 32% of parents surveyed in India said their children experienced cyber bullying, followed by Brazil (20%), Saudi Arabia (18%), Canada (18%) and the United States (15%). Parents in India also reported the greatest intensity of cyber bullying. 13% said a child in their home experiences cyber bullying on a regular basis, followed by 10% in Brazil, 5% in the United States and 5% in Argentina.
The frequency of cyber bullying in India was found to be higher than in the U.S. (15% of children), U.K. (11% of children) and France (5% of children).
According to a Microsoft study of online bullying among youth 8-17 years old, children in India reported the third highest online bullying rate among the 25 countries surveyed.
Studies have shown that even though children can be a lot more tech-savvy than middle-aged people, they are also the ones who are the most laid back about cyber safety and security. Also, pre-teens and teenagers are likelier targets as they especially rely heavily on social media platforms to fit in and get peer approval.
What is cyber bullying?
Cyber bullying is a kind of harassment that uses electronic forms of contact. Bullying can include posting rumors about a person, threats, sexual comments, disclosing victim’s personal information, or hate speech. Victims of cyber bullying show lower self-esteem, increased suicidal tendencies, retaliation and emotional breakdowns, and are also more prone to being frustrated, angry or depressed. Many studies that have shown that cyber bullying can be as harmful as traditional forms of bullying, if not more.
Types of cyber threats to children
Even though cyber bullying is as prevalent in society as any other form of abuse, not as much importance is given to educating people about the prevention and the care for victims of cyber abuse. Only when games like the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’ become popular, people are forced to acknowledge the threat that is looming in everyone’s living room.
Blue Whale Challenge and other viral challenges like the Choking Game and the Cinnamon Challenge, are not the only forms of cyber threats out there. Cyber bullying can range from just a rude comment on a social media posts to outright trolling and harassment.
A threat that many kids fall for, especially teenagers, are those coming through chat rooms. Anonymous chat rooms are popular among teenagers to make new friends, and talk to different kinds of people. However, this modern twist to pen-pals comes with grave risks. Bullies hide behind the anonymity clause of websites to often target kids, either to make sexual and lewd comments or even send inappropriate content without their knowledge.
Apps like ‘Tinder’ and ‘OkayCupid’ which help young adults meet and talk to men and women with similar interests are also teaming with dubious people. There is no way of knowing if the person a user is talking to is indeed what they say or not. Also, in such cases, there is not only a chance of cyber bullying and cyber threats, but also physical threats when the two parties do decide to meet.
Even a seemingly simple task, of posting pictures on social media websites, can turn into cyber bullying when other users post rude or insulting comments on them. In a day and age when many kids look to their social media presence for acceptance among peers, these incidents can have powerful and damaging impact.
Online scams and phishing is another cyber threat kids face. Different emails and posts around the web that claim they have won prizes lure them in, after which they are asked to provide person information like bank details and addresses. Different viruses are also used to enter personal computers to gain access to credit card and other sensitive information.
Prevention and care for victims
In today’s world, it is next to impossible to completely stay clear of cyber threats. It is also not possible to maintain surveillance on your child’s online presence all the time. So, it is important to not only be educated about the dangers your child may face, but also talk to them about how they can detect these threats and protect themselves from becoming victims.
The first thing any parent can do to protect their children from cyber bullying is to educate children about digital safety and how to use the Internet safely and wisely. Studies have shown the trend of cyber bullying differs in boys and girls.
Schools can also do an important part in discouraging cyber bullying. Since many cases have proven that more often than not, the bully and the victim know each other, and in many instances are acquaintances or schoolmates, promoting strong positive relationships with fellow students and teachers becomes very important. Encouraging bystander to report any abuse is also very important to curb cyber bullying.
Being involved with your child is a must. Talk to them about what cyber bullying is and the different threats that are out there. They should also be taught not to bully others online. These days most gadgets come equipped with parental controls, which can be set according to age and need. At the end, it’s all about being aware and making your children aware.