Cyberbullying

“Cyber bullies can hide behind a mask of anonymity online and do not need direct physical access to their victims to do unimaginable harm.” – Anna Maria Chavez

Cyberbullying is known as the act of using laptops, mobile phones, computers or other digital technology in order to anger, shame or hurt others. It is quite a prevalent topic in today’s day and age. This form of bullying is known to be quite different than the other “traditional” forms of bullying. Traditional bullying includes bullying which is mostly physical or verbal within close proximity of the victim. Cyberbullying has much harsher levels of harassment due to anonymity offered by the internet. Thus the bullies can continue without any fear of reciprocation. While traditional bullying occurs only when the victim is in close proximity with the bully, cyberbullying can happen anytime, anywhere. Online privacy is quite a rare thing these days. This can cause the victim much more grief since he is being bullied in public. There is a popular saying-“what goes online, stays online”. This is quite true in this case and this form of bullying thus causes massive psychological damage. Cyberbullying is also hard to discover, and mostly depends on the victim coming forward, requesting for help. This is especially rare in children who do not have the maturity to do so and thus is quite a potent threat to children online.

Examples of cyberbullying may include the posting of an individual’s private pictures on the internet, verbal abuse such as in online videogames, cyber stalking, impersonating a person online, or spreading hateful messages through multi-accounting. The main places where these occur are social media, through emails or through text.

The effects of cyber bullying are huge, and can contribute in massive humiliation of the victim. It can also be a cause of the victim isolating himself from the outside world, which in turn may make him further susceptible to various mental illnesses. Anger and frustration may also stem from such practices which have a further negative impact on health. This form of bullying may particularly render the victim feeling powerless which can cause mental consequences like depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and cause the victim to want to perform self-harm, have academic issues and suicidal thoughts.

In these modern times, it is very important to know how to react to such problems. The easiest way to get help is to open up to someone by telling them about your problems. Another simple way is to just walk away from the bully and this requires much less mental stress. An individual getting bullied online should ideally take a break instead of working on immediate retaliation, as decisions are best taken with a clear mind. Protection of oneself online is very important and this can be done by staying aware of such people at all times. An antivirus is a necessary application to have and can often save individuals from attacks like phishing and malware, or even simply block them from accessing a malicious site, which in turn prevents their data from being leaked and used as a source of ridicule or blackmail. Awareness should be spread regarding resources to fight cyberbullying. The anti-bullying helpline of http://www.childline.org for children in India is 1098. These are quite frequent occurences and more resources should be developed to fight these actively.

Very few laws exist in India pertaining to cyberbullying. Among them, the most eminent ones are the section 354A, 354D, 507 under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The Indian Internet Report from 2019 suggests that 2 in 3 internet users (66%) are between the ages of 12 and 29. 1 in every 10 adolescents (10%) in India are victims of cyberbullying. A large percentage of teens have already been victims of cyberbullying. A large number of cases like these are estimated to be unreported which causes the number seem to be lower than the original. Reports should be instantly sent to online service providers, law enforcement and to educational institutions in case of students. Friends and family should be well-informed to intervene in such cases instead of allowing it to occur. Seminars and meetings should be conducted on this topic to further spread awareness. The Government could put up banners and posters in order to encourage citizens to actively fight cyberbullying.

The reason people perform cyberbullying is much debated among researches. There is quite the possibility that it is accidental and occurs during friendly banter or ridicule. However, the most recognised reasons are the ability to stay anonymous on the internet, the ignorance of the consequences of such deeds and also social pressure. Many teenagers may simply think it to be “cool” to bully an individual, just because their peers are doing the same.

As technology progresses, more and more people continued to become victims of cyberbullying every day. It should be our job to offer them a helping hand in order to eradicate this problem for once and for all.