Cyber-bullying: Cruel and not cool/MIdday November 29, 2013 MUMBAI Fatema Pittalwala
Cyber-bullying: Cruel and not cool
Bullies have always existed, and in the age of technology, their methods have only become more devious. As cases of online bullying grow, we get to grips with its causes and effects
According to psychiatrist Dr Parul Tank, people don’t realize that cyber-bullying is different from real-life bullying; the abuser is a faceless stalker, which makes it harder for some to handle. She says, “The emotional outcome of cyber-bullying is similar to that of real-life bullying. The difference is that there is no escape from cyber-bullying; it can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Uday Vaidya, founder of Munee Consultants, an organization dealing with behaviour counselling, says, “Online bullying is a typical adolescent problem. With changing lifestyle trends among families and individuals, communication between individuals has also changed. Children are attracted to social networking sites because online, they receive the attention that they miss in real life.
Dr Tank adds, “If a child is using the internet excessively, and quickly shuts the laptop or hides the screen when someone someone enters the room, he or she might be doing something you may not approve of. Emotional withdrawal, irregular sleep patterns and other behavioural changes are some signs that tell you there is something going on in a child’s life. Parents have to be sensitive towards such problems and they should make it a habit to listen to their children without immediately judging or interrupting them.”
Media professor Arpita Ghosh says, “When it comes to online media, especially social networking sites, we don’t use them constructively. Today for individuals, validation from external sources is extremely important. Posting photos, counting the number of likes, checking and responding to comments are some of the things that give a high or low to any child. We feel that the online world is a safe medium to share our thoughts.
Thomas Johnson, director of the NGO Aasra, a crisis intervention centre for the distressed and suicidal people, feels that one should understand today’s social situation before coming to any conclusion regarding the cause and effect of suicide cases. He says, “Today, children are dependent more on technology than on person-to-person interaction. If they have a problem, kids prefer talking about it through posts and tweets, rather than to their parents and friends in real life.
Madhuri More, assistant police inspector at the cyber crime cell of the Mumbai Police, says, “When we are online, we rarely realize that we have logged onto the World Wide Web”, she says, with the emphasis on ‘world’. She continues, “Not only children and teenagers, but sometimes even adults act irresponsibly. Everything depends on a single click. We have had cases where people accept friend requests from strangers and then they complain about stalking and harassment.
Reema Parekh, a school curriculum developer, says, “Bullying is something that you cannot completely put a stop to. But during teenage years, parents and children should try hard to have better communication and relationship. Children should be able to talk to their parents about things going on in their life, and parents should be able to detect the signs that tell them something is up with their child. Children are very much influenced by the media; hence their exposure to these things should be monitored.
>> Never reveal personally-identifiable information online
>> Never share your password with other people (except for your parents)
>> Never arrange meetings with strangers
>> Don’t believe everything you read or see online
>> Don’t download files or software without your parents’ permission
>> Don’t respond to inappropriate messages or emails
>> Don’t post inappropriate content
>> Be wary of personal questions from strangers
>> Don’t be bullied into fights
>> Don’t use adult sites
>> Understand that what you put online will be there forever
>> Source: http://cybercellmumbai.gov.in
On November 19, a 14-year-old girl committed suicide by hanging because she was harassed online by a 16-year-old boy. The minor took the drastic step after she was tormented and stalked by a boy who posted offensive material on her social networking account. A resident of Iraniwadi in Kandivli (W), the Std IX student and her father had approached the local police station with his daughter to lodge a complaint, fearing that the boy would harm her. The father alleged that the police had shown no interest in the matter, and they returned without a complaint being filed.