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Identifying and tackling cyberbullying!

cyber-bullying

~Tanvi Sardesai, Counselling Psychologist, Dept. of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences,

S.L. Raheja Hospital-A Fortis Associate ~

Bullying has remained a problem area in the society. Bullying can happen anywhere – at school, college, at home or online. It is usually repeated over a long period of time and can hurt an individual both physically and emotionally.Bullying that happens online, using social networks, games and mobile phones, is called ‘cyberbullying’. On the observance of International Safer Internet Day (8th February), identifying and signaling bullying situations can be undertaken along with the cautious steps in dealing with the same .

cyber-bullying

Young victims respond to cyber bulling in different ways; some may overlook it while some tend to take it personally, resulting in self harm or induction of low self-esteem, depression, anger, failure at academics or mental breakdowns. Both cyberbullying and face-to-face bullying can result in long-term psychological impact, the victims face extreme adversities which often lead to suicide or violence. Cyberbullying is an increasingly common form of bullying behavior; itmay include spreading rumors, posting nasty,and circulating embarrassing images or videos of the victim.It may be an extension of offline bullying.

  • Change in personalitye.anger bouts, sudden crying outbursts or signs of depression through silence, cannot be ignored
  • Other indications include fresh self-harm marks on the skin, often covered up by wearing long sleeves frequently, especially during summers
  • A sudden loss of appetite resulting in weight loss, caused by the need to try and change their appearance as per societal standards
  • Exclusion from social gatherings and events/finding excuses to stay away from work or school etc.

How to deal with victims of cyberbullying:

  • Do reinforce that no one deserves to be treated in this way and that they have done nothing wrong
  • Reassure them that they have people who are ready to help them at any given time
  • Encourage them to talk to seniors or a teacher or someone you know can help them. Counselling at the start of the harassment can help bridge the effect it has on the person
  • If they are too scared to speak to an elder or a person of trust directly, they can write a letter or speak to another family member.

Can child locks on internet driven devices help?

Most teenagers today have their own internet driven devices-phones, laptops, iPadsetc. A teenager may also come to feel that the parents to do not trust them. Instead, effective communication with the child may be more helpful where the parents have an open discussion with the child regarding safe internet usage, thus encouraging transparency

Can frequent no-bullying sessions in schools and colleges help?

Frequent anti-bullying sessions is a major step towards dealing with the issue. It can be used as a tool to sensitize students about the impact that bullying can have on its victims. Through these sessions, children can also be made aware about laws regarding cyberbullying, the importance of reporting bullying and ways to improve their privacy and security settings. Through these sessions, students can also be encouraged to stand up against bullies and to provide support the victims.

Can a toll-free number to report the bully help?

Victims are often afraid to stand up against bullies and report cases of bullying, whether cyber or otherwise; they fear being harassed further. They fear being judged or misunderstood, or have their phones taken away by parents. Having a toll-free number to report the bully can provide them with safe space to express their concerns and report incidences of bullying, even on the grounds of anonymity.

How to tackle the bully?

In order to tackle the bully, it is imperative to save evidence and to report the case. This must be done without waiting for too long. Taking screenshots, saving emails and conversations is important as this provides proof. Reporting bullying can be anxiety provoking and stories may lack details. Documenting these can help the reporting process. Educating oneself on cyberbullying laws also helps. It is advisable to block out the bully instead of engaging with the bully.

The first step for parents would be to listen to their child without judgement, empathize with them and provide them with unconditional support. Working together with the child and discussing steps to take is helpful.The cause of cyberbullying must also be identified.

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