Since the lockdown, educators like me have been engaged in a lot of webinar activity; whether it is classes, career workshops, e-learning workshops, teacher training modules or other related activities. But for me the most important, have been the cyber-bullying and social media impact workshops. My observations after having taken webinars for schools in Delhi-NCR, Rajasthan, Punjab, and UP, indicate that the trends of cyber bullying have become worse than they were before the lockdown.
Cyber Bullying in India
India has the world’s largest number of WhatsApp and Facebook users and it has the second highest number of internet users in the world after China. In 2012, the Microsoft Global Youth Online Behaviour Survey found that 22% Indian kids admitted to being bullied online, 52% admitted to being bullied online, and 65% children admitted to being a witness to bullying behaviour. In 2018, an Ipsos study clearly found that India leads the world in cyberbullying cases. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data suggests that there was a 25% increase in cyberbullying instances in India from 2017 to 2018.
I created the cyber bullying workshop in 2018, primarily because of the Momo Challenge scare which swept the world. Anxious schools reached out, as scared parents wanted scientific and psychological guidance for their children - from 6th class onwards! Since the lockdown, be it the Instagram Bois Locker case in Delhi or the 10th class WhatsApp pornography group case from Bhagpat in UP, cyberbullying has become an even more serious Indian problem today.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is when someone bullies or harasses others on the internet and in other digital spaces, particularly on social media sites. Cyberbullying is evolving with the introduction of new technologies and platforms. There are multiple types of cyberbullying and most students and users in India cannot even understand if they are being bullied or if they are bullying someone else. Using the internet, messaging or threatening someone, making memes, hacking someone’s accounts, pretending to be someone else, trolling or provoking someone with abusive language and much more describe cyber bullying. And, such repeated activities and an intent to harm prove bullying behaviour.
Cyberbullying can happen on emails, social media, online gaming, personal websites, the dark web, SMSs, messengers like WhatsApp or Telegram, chatrooms, forums, fan fiction websites, pornography websites and more. After the lockdown, attacks on teachers have increased a lot. Creating problems during online classes, making jokes about them on social media groups, threatening them and their families with rape and murder are just some of the things.
Effects of Cyber Bullying
Research has demonstrated a number of serious consequences of cyberbullying victimisation. Specific statistics on the negative effects of cyberbullying differ by country and other demographics. But the main effects are related to the changes in behaviour of the victim. Victims prefer to stay alone, not talk with others, become agitated on using the internet, not disclosing their online usage, not participate in school activities - both curricular and extra-curricular, and not interested in meeting or making friends. This change in behaviour can have physical effects as well - such as loss of appetite, loss of sleep and general loss of interest in doing anything. Many adverse cases indicate that this general anxiety in victims can lead to depression - the effects of which might last for years to come.
Ways to identify Cyberbullying
If you notice your child or friend or student slipping in grades, becoming moodier, not participating in activities, becoming reserve, showing signs of emotional disturbance after using social media sites or the internet, then it is time to have a conversation with that person. Offer your support.
How to protect yourself?
Cyber security is a growing concern for all digital users. The Government of India’s website infosecawareness.in provides in-depth ways to keep yourself safe in different scenarios of using the internet. For students and others - Do not entertain strangers on the internet. Keep your passwords strong and do not share them with others. Control the access given to mobile apps on your phone. Keep different emails for different purposes. Learn how to take screenshots and record your screens on phone and computer. Report abusive behaviour immediately to the website or platform. Stay away from the dark web. Call out bullying behaviour in your group of friends. Keep the number of your local cyber police stations saved in your phone. Do not keep more than Rs 1000 in your digital wallets. Engage yourself in more non-digital activities like playing, hobbies, helping out family and friends.
One of the most common questions I get asked by students in the Q-A section of my webinars is,
“How can I make my parents and teachers understand?” My humble request to all educators and parents is to educate yourselves and help create a support system for your children. Their routine activities are now irreversibly linked to the digital life, and they feel alone when they face problems there. Suicides related to online activities are increasing. My humble request to all the children and students is to help your parents and teachers understand the digital world, the online behaviour and the pressures associated with it. Your elders want to protect you and support you but they will not be able to do so if they do not understand how.
Just like with the pandemic, we are in this together!
About the Author:
Mr Saurabh Nanda is a Psychologist, Career Guide and the Co-Founder of ‘The Happy Career Project’. His unique career consulting firm helps students carve a career path that leads them to career growth as well as happiness. Picking the right career can be tough and helping others do the same is even tougher. Saurabh is doing just that.