Picture this scenario where you’re walking carefree on an empty street. Out of the blue, a crowd mills around and starts hurtling the meanest things you’ve heard at you. A few moments of this and they depart, only to leave you bruised and broken.
We fortunately live in a civil society so this incident may not be commonplace, at least in the real world. Yet, as we retreat behind the PC screen, away into the virtual world, there’s every chance of this happening with us and yes, the trauma that’s caused is somewhat the same, if not more. As per the Global Youth Online Behaviour Survey released by Microsoft, over 53% of Indian children have been cyber bullied. If this doesn’t worry you, this certainly will – India has the worst record of cyber bullying in the world, according to a report by Ipsos.
Being bullied is something we have all faced, be it in the office, school or somewhere else. What used to once occur in the real world has now shifted to cyber space, with young kids being targeted on social networking sites. It could be through IMs, Facebook, through online conversations which may lead to blackmailing, name calling or any hate campaign that vilifies a person. But what is constant is that the person is being bullied, and what’s worse, there’s hardly any literacy about this issue in the country. Grave as this issue may be, a few handy steps can certainly curb it, if not abolish it altogether. Here’s how:
Remember that awesome moment when you created your Facebook account and had your first chat? We all remember it, all right, but what’s not so okay is that though we get our gateway to the social networking world way too easily, it comes with us being illiterate about the virtual world. Says Rakshit Tandon, a cyber crime expert. “Both parents and children need to be educated on how to be cyber smart. The Internet is not a scary place, but it is misused. ‘Netizens’ need to learn ‘netiquettes’, the lack of which is making them vulnerable online.”
Just for Laughs? NO!
It’s tempting to assume that what’s happening with you may not be bullying after all but just a harmless form of teasing, reporting which may land you out of your peer group. Steer clear of such thoughts. If it annoys you, if you’re being harassed for no reason online, you should know that’s it bullying. Brushing it aside as insignificant will certainly not make you feel any better.
So you know that the creeps sitting online are out to push you to the wall. What you do next can either shut them up forever or hassle you even further. The best option is you discuss this with someone you trust. It could be an older sibling, your parents or your school counsellor. When you need help, there’s nothing wrong in asking for it. Speak out.
Y U no Block!
Learning the tech nitty-gritty of cyber space can go a long way in keeping you safe online. Google it. While we are on the subject of online safety, if needed, the ‘Block’ function can be highly useful. If you’re being harassed or spammed, find the block option and cut out the bullies ASAP. Also, assuming an anonymous ID in the virtual world may not be bad idea at all. In any case, absolutely avoid sharing personal information like your phone numbers, home addresses etc. Pics or videos that may embarrass you later are also an absolute no-no. Know what you’re sharing and more importantly, with who.
If Someone you Know is Being Bullied
You’ll need to play a proactive role in this but at the same time you need to handle it with care. Symptoms of such a person will be easy to spot: they excessively obsesses with their digital lives and their privacy online, they appear emotionally distressed and moody and they withdraw into a shell of their own. Start by having a discussion with them, for e.g. you could ask about their favourite activities online, how much they know about Internet security etc. Assure them that cyber bullying can happen to anyone and it is no way their fault.
If You Know the Bully
It can be hard to digest if you find out that someone like your sibling, your friend or anyone else you know well has been bullying others online. If counselling fails to deter them, take a firm stance and tell them that cyber bullying is a punishable offence and that they are liable to be sued and thrown behind bars.
Cyber awareness is catching up in our country. Yet, it in no way matches the speed at which the Internet is penetrating the country. The Internet is a fun place. With a little vigilance and the courage to say no to the online trolls indulging in cyber bullying, it can definitely remain that way.
Tired of getting bullied by others in your virtual space? It’s time you file a complaint against them. Harassing, humiliating, embarrassing, threatening or tormenting someone using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones is called cyber bullying. It has to have a minor on both sides or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. It is an offence under Section 66 (A) of The IT Act, 2000. It is punishable with imprisonment up to three years, or with a fine, or both.
The Dark Side of Social Media
‘Feeling cool today. Dumped my girlfriend. Happy independence day.’ This Facebook status, put up be her boyfriend, allegedly drove a young IIM student, Malini Murmu to commit suicide. She was found hanging in her room and police have reasons to believe that the mental trauma caused by her boyfriend had a lot to do with it. The darker side of social media has taken scores of lives and ruined plenty of them.
Volume 2 Issue 6