Before the Internet, bullying mostly happened in person. Kids were bullied at the bus stop, at break time or at school dispersal. But once a child got home, the bullying stopped. Now with technology, online bullying, or cyberbullying, can happen anywhere at any time.
It’s scary to think that your child can be threatened, picked on and intimidated nonstop. But with social media, bullies can hurt other kids during school or at all hours of the night.
The McAfee Cyberbullying report published in August 2022 covered 11,687 parents and their children across 10 countries including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, India, Canada, Japan, Brazil, and Mexico.
Around 85 per cent of Indian children have reported being cyberbullied as well as having cyberbullied someone else at rates well over twice the international average,
The McAfee Cyberbullying Report, a ten-country survey including India, uncovered several new and consequential trends regarding cyberbullying. Including the types of bullying being reported, data around who is the perpetrator and victim of bullying online, and the tensions between how parents and children define cyberbullying activity.
This survey also uncovered the startling fact that many children take part in cyberbullying, often without realizing their behaviour for what it is, while parents struggle to keep up.
45 per cent of Indian children said they hide their cyberbullying experiences from parents, perhaps due to the relative absence of conversation
Nationwide, according to research conducted by Symantec
Nearly 8 out of 10 individuals are subject to the different types of cyberbullying in India. Out of these around 63% faced online abuses and insults, and 59% were subject to false rumours and gossips for degrading their image.
The same study ranks India as the country facing the highest cyberbullying in the Asia Pacific region, more than Australia and Japan.
In today’s scenario where our kids are spending more hours than ever online, these are very scary numbers. We have read a lot of news reports about school bullying. But have you wondered if it is happening in your house too? Is your child a silent victim of bullying at school? Bullies and mean girls have been around forever, but technology now gives them a whole new platform for their actions.
What Is Cyberbullying?
Bullying is an intentional, aggressive and repeated behaviour that could be physical, verbal, sexual or mental. Peer abuse has become a part of the school and can take on a very ugly form. What is troubling is that children don’t always tell us what is happening with them. Why? Some of the reasons they give are ” I was too embarrassed” or “My dad will complain and then I will probably get bullied even more” or “My mom told me to try and sort any differences out myself”. I know I had those thoughts myself when I was growing up and it was an extremely unpleasant situation to be in.
Did you know that a study by CRY ( Child Rights and You) shows that
Around 9.2% of 630 adolescents surveyed in Delhi-National Capital Region had experienced cyberbullying and half of them had not reported it to teachers, guardians or the social media companies concerned.
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person.
It’s not always easy to know how and when to step in as a parent. For starters, most kids use technology differently than we do. They’re playing games online and sending texts on their phones at an early age, and most teens have devices that keep them constantly connected to the Internet.
Fatema Agarkar, Founder ACE says
“The Indian story mirrors what the rest of the world is experiencing. Whether in the physical world or virtual, bullying exists and the statistics keep rising each year with more users added, most vulnerable are ages 11 upwards. With National Commission guidelines, and many ‘apps’ that ‘screen’ these elements out, as adults we can marginalise this – schools must orient and guide students about digital usage, safety through dedicated and repeated sessions by cyber experts, and counselling; parents can extensively communicate with their children and set rules and guidelines and ‘monitor’.
We need to fight it with appropriate distancing norms but also, build the ‘immunity’ by educating the children and addressing their vulnerability first. It is a combination of preventive measures and reactive strategies because the spread is more rapid in the virtual world than physical. It has to be a collective effort to drive this and we need to control the ‘spikes’ for sure as the statistics are 1 in 6 children.
The Different Forms Of Cyberbullying
Extreme forms of cyberbullying reported besides racism include
All of these at almost double the global average
- Trolling (36 %)
- Personal attacks (29 % per)
- Sexual harassment (30 %)
- Threat of personal harm (28 %)
- Doxing (23 %)
- Spreading false rumours 39 %)
- Being excluded from groups and conversations (35 %)
- Name-calling (34 %)
A fact that we learnt
A study from the UK anti-bullying organization Ditch the Label found that 42% of surveyed young adults experienced cyberbullying on Instagram. That was compared to 37% on Facebook and 31% on Snapchat. Perhaps surprisingly, only 9% reported having experienced cyberbullying on Twitter.
The Emotional Fall Out
We spoke to Dr Vihan Sanyal, a well-known psychotherapist and the founder of Mind Factory. As per him,
A child can develop a range of psychological disorders which can be acute and even chronic in nature. A child can experience confusion, shame, humiliation, anger, frustration, panic attacks, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and even depression as a result of being bullied.
Capt Vineet Kumar, President CyberPeace Foundation talked to us about how can we create awareness among the kids & help curb the threats and problems associated with the internet and its usage. This is what he had to say.
It is no secret that children learn by doing and this can be best achieved by sitting down with them as they browse the internet, play their favourite games or watch videos on an app. In addition, technology like parental control can be used to control exposure and ensure safety for smaller children
He also voiced his security concerns parents should be aware of when they allow their kids access to a gadget
There are actually safety and security concerns. So, there are two aspects to this. Security interfaces with the technology itself- are they using 2FA authentication, are they using privacy settings, are they using the same password for all accounts? These are things that make one part of the overall cyber hygiene that a child might need to follow.
The other and more important is the safety component which interfaces with how the child behaves and navigates in the cyber space. This would include concerns like are they accessing age inappropriate content, are they speaking to strangers, are they sharing too much information online, are they engaging in activities like bullying someone online etc.
From using gadgets as pacifiers to exposing your child to them for educational purposes, there are a ton of reasons you let your child use a gadget. With social distancing being a priority and in the times of a lockdown, children are adjusted to online learning models, including educational apps, video tutorials and entertaining games. As a result of children spending more time at home and in front of their screens, parents are looking for management tools to strike a healthy balance.
“The digital world is a reflection of the real world.” says Ashutosh Parekh, Content Head Of Voot Kids. Watch what else he has to say about safety in the digital world
Parents need to understand that cyberbullying is real and can be much more potent than bullying in schools. When a child or an adult posts a comment online about someone, the comment is permanent and can be read by millions of people. Hence, the impact of bullying is more severe. Also, the person writing the comment can be ruthless because they are not having a face-to-face conversation with the person. They can write without any emotional filters.
Being watchful is the key here. We as parents need to look out for the warning signs. Dr Sanyal tells us what we should watch out for – so you may recognise the signs that your child may be a victim of bullying.
- Avoiding school – Monday mornings are always drab. But if this trend carries on over the course of the week and involves crying and tantrums, there may be bigger problems than simple Monday morning blues.
- Changes in eating habits – If you notice a sudden increase in appetite when they come home from school which you can’t link to your child’s growth spurt, then their tiffin may not be reaching them. Some kids tend to snatch others’ tiffin and eat as a show of strength.
- Afraid of using the school bus – Buses are a haven for bullies. Even with a teacher or bus didi on board, there are so many things that go unnoticed. Bullying is very common in buses as kids are made to feel defenceless and end up not complaining.
- Marked change in behaviour – They could become very aggressive suddenly and start bullying younger siblings as retaliation or they may just withdraw into a shell and stop communicating. Both scenarios are equally scary.
- A sudden drop in grades – Lack of concentration and focus due to bullying could be responsible for the grades falling.
- Physical complaints like headaches and stomach aches – These signs are common manifestations of anxiety and stress. These are also easy to fake and could be their stay-home-from-school trump card.
- Unexplained bruises – If your child tries to avoid questions about how he/she hurt themselves or you feel are deliberately vague, you need to sit up and take notice.
- Things disappearing from the school bag regularly – If this is happening all the time, it may be that someone is taking it off them and they are not in a position to resist or complain.
- Bedwetting – Troubled sleep and bedwetting are signs of anxiety or fear stemming from being bullied.
What Can We Do To Keep Our Kids Safe
Manage your children’s contacts with full control over the list that only you can edit.
- During Allowed Screen Time, choose to allow “everyone” or “contacts only” to contact your children, giving you the option to prevent unknown contacts from reaching them.
- During Downtime or after app limits have expired, choose to further limit who your children can communicate with using the “specified contacts” option.
- For information on how to set up, you can find step-by-step guidelines here.
Get the most out of parental controls on your child’s iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
- Set Content & Privacy Restrictions to block or limit specific apps and features on your child’s device.
- Automatically filter and set restrictions for content your child can access on his/her device.
- For information on how to set up, you can find step-by-step guidelines here.
Additional Screen Time features include:
- Tap into reports from up to 30 days of usage data, and compare week-over-week results.
- App Limits allow you to combine specific apps or categories and make apps more discoverable.
- In Downtime, children can click One More Minute once to give them an additional minute of screen time.
What Can We Do As Parents
- Ensure that you educate your children about cyberbullying
- Help your children to become resilient towards bullying by not taking any attacks on them personally. Explain to them that the bully’s motive is to instigate a reaction and that the bully thrives on retaliation. The best policy here would be not to respond to comments.
- Give them examples of famous people and public figures. Tell them that famous people often are often subjected to ridicule and vindictiveness.
- Don’t restrict your children from having an online presence. This will only cause them to feel alienated, especially if most of their friends have online accounts.
- Ask your children if you can be a part of their online world. Every individual has a right to privacy. Please do not force your child to include you in their accounts. Tell them that you trust them and would appreciate it if they would let you become a part of their online world.
- Encourage your children to talk to you about situations. Promote transparent communication in your house. Set an example by including them in your decisions and seeking their opinion on day-to-day things.
- Remember if you alienate your children then they are likely to exclude you from their world.
Helplines You Can Contact
Phone CHILDLINE 1098 is India’s 1st 24-hour toll-free number for children. It s a free emergency phone service for children who are in need of assistance. A child or an adult can call 1098 at any time to seek help in case of an emergency.
Aarambhindia has a hotline hosted on http://aarambhindia.org/report/ where you can report child sexual abuse material. It is not necessary for the person who is reporting to identify themselves if they don’t want to.
National Commission For Protection of Child Rights has the POSCO E-Box to report any such offence directly to them online. – https://ncpcr.gov.in/index1. The National Commission has carefully outlined areas that need attention and focus and a well-documented guide for adu
ts – both educators and parents