With the virtual world becoming bigger and stronger, bullying too has moved from schools, playgrounds, buses, toilets, and the phone to the Internet. The abuse is instant, wide-spread, and the abuser anonymous.
“The bully simply has to create a fake profile of the victim on any of the social networking sites and then invite friends to post slanderous remarks about the person,” says Prithvi Rohan Kapoor, who passed out of St Columbus School earlier this year. Cyberbullying, he adds, is rampant in schools with Class VII children also indulging in it.
While cyberbullying is picking pace in India, in countries such as America it is rampant. According to the recent Pew Internet and American Life Project, “One in three (32%) online teens have experienced online bullying.” The project found that girls (38%) are more likely to be victims than boys (26%) and that older girls (15 to 17 years) are more prone to be bullied.
Bullying could be in the form of receiving threatening messages, having private emails or text messages forwarded without consent, having an embarrassing picture posted without permission, or having rumours spread online. <b1>
“Cyberbullying is easy because there’s no accountability. And it does permanent damage to the person,” says Kapoor now pursuing economics at Ramjas College. Despite the ‘report abuse’ provision that social networking sites have, the offensive and fake profile of the child or teen victim is seldom taken off, he adds.
Students say cyberbullying is seldom talked about in their computer classes. But Suraj Prakash, principal, CRPF School, Rohini, says, “We take up these issues during the morning assemblies, which are also briefing sessions. Teachers too are involved.” Prakash adds that offensive messages on mobile phones also do grave damage and that the teachers are constantly in touch with students to help.
The law of the land, however, remains silent on cyberbullying. On the website of Mumbai’s Cyber Crime Investigation Cell, cyberbullying does not feature on the list of web crimes. “Cyber law is a very weak branch of law in India. It’s touch to nab cyberbullies,” says Delhi High Court lawyer Harish Katyal.