According to a recent survey, 53% of Indian children between 8 and 17 years have been bullied online.
The Global Youth Online Behaviour Survey conducted by Microsoft ranked India third in cyberbullying. A virtual offence with real consequences. Nishant (name changed) is one of its victims.
Nishant outshone his school seniors in basketball. But suddenly, he did not want to play anymore. The 14-year-old became withdrawn and his game started to suffer.
He finally confided in his father that jealous seniors had been harassing him online, since they could not pull him down on the basketball court.
That’s when his father sought the help of a counsellor. Nishant’s case is not an exception. A rising number of such cases are being reported, underlining the trend.
Recently, a Class 10 student of a Delhi school slashed his classmate’s arm with a paper cutter for uploading an altered picture of him with a girl, on Facebook.
Such incidents don’t come as a surprise. School children we spoke with confirm that cyberbullying is common.
Hate mails, online gang wars, fake profiles and digitally-altered photographs abound on the web. Nothing facilitates the game of one-upmanship like the internet.
“The easiest way to get back at someone is online,” said Srishti Sehgal, a Class 12 student at St Thomas’ School. Mandir Marg. “You don’t have to face the other person. So you can say or do things you wouldn’t in real life. You can knock someone down in front of hundreds of people who are on the site. It’s worse than school bullying,” she said.
But what has led to this explosion of online bullying among youngsters? “Children are spending more time on the internet than ever before,” said Jitendra Nagpal, a child and adolescent psychologist.
“The clandestine nature of cyberspace and the anonymity it allows the user encourages its misuse. Youngsters think there are no consequences of their actions online and lose all inhibitions.”
Schools, recognising this disturbing phenomenon, are gradually beginning to counsel their students. Children are being educated about cyber ethics and safety.
Ashok K Pandey, principal, Ahlcon International School, Mayur Vihar, said: “We cannot stop children from accessing the internet. Schools must guide students on using it in a way that doesn’t harm them or others.”
Parents, too, need to play their part and spend more time with their children, said school counsellor Geetanjali Kumar. “Technology has invaded our lives.
Children have become increasingly isolated from their families and lost out on the value system. Parental supervision of internet usage is important in case of younger children,” she said.