International day against violence and bullying: Give the young a platform to share their feelings, say experts
The pandemic has increased screen time for most of us, and the youngsters have been one of the most impacted by this change in lifestyle. From attending classes online to meeting friends virtually, their life has taken a different turn digitally, thus making their cyber safety a concern for them and everyone associated, especially their parents. Spending more time online than before, more number of young have reportedly fallen prey to cyberbullying on social media platforms during the pandemic. The leaked chat from Bois Locker Room, an Instagram group that was reportedly run by a groups of teenagers, is only one example that highlights growing cases of cyber crimes.
On International Day against violence and bullying at school, including cyberbullying, parents say they do feel a growing concern regarding cyberbullying since their wards use different online mediums, and often without supervision. Meenu Kataria, mother of a 16-year-old, says, “Kids these days play online games, and interact with random people on social media platforms. There was a person who once asked my child for sexually explicit photographs. She came to me but not every child will do that. And these predators later use such images as blackmail.” Kataria adds that it’s imperative that parents set reasonable limits on internet use and keep a watchful eye on their child’s social media interactions.
But, unlike Bois Locker Room, it’s not every time that predators get identified. “Anonymity is the biggest factor that has led to proliferation of cyberbullying cases, especially among school children,” says Anuj Agarwal, cyber security expert, adding, “Earlier bullying was physical and identifiable. You could identify a bully in class. But now, bullying has moved to the cyber world. Harassment, lewd messages, mockery, morphed images — all these cause unspoken trauma to victims.” Agarwal says most children don’t report cases of cyberbullying due to the fear of being reprimanded, and also anonymity of the perpetrator. “It’s also because often local authorities don’t deal with cyber crime cases unless some physical damage has been done,” he opines.
Another reason for cyberbullying being reported less among teenagers is the fact that often the bully is someone from their peers. “Children want to feel in power in school, feel valued and important. Often parents and society also instil a vengeful attitude in kids, wherein you hurt the one who hurts you. Some resort to cyberbullying since it’s easily accessible and they feel they can get away with it. And the victims don’t report it, since they fear ostracisation,” says Dr Mona Chaudhary, a Delhi-based consultant psychiatrist. She believes children need to be given a platform to discuss their feelings, whether it is at home or school. “To prevent destructive behaviour like cyberbullying in youngsters, they need to know that they can share their opinions without fear. The aim is reformation, not punishment,” she adds.
Author tweets @bhagat_mallika