Is it COVID anxiety or Cyber-bullying? | Expert Speak | Saurabh Nanda

During the 2nd wave of COVID-19, our students are struggling with lack of accurate information about cyber bullying and the COVID pandemic,  often mistaking concerns for one for the another. Therefore, It’s time for parents, teachers and elders to initiate an open discussion on these topics with youngsters and hear their side of the story.

Cyber Bullying or COVID Anxiety?
Cyber Bullying or COVID Anxiety?

“Am I being cyber-bullied according to the traits that you mentioned in the presentation?”

During one of my recent cyber-bullying sessions at a big school in Faridabad in April 2021, a 9th grade student asked this question after the presentation. India is the cyber bullying capital of the world with 37% parents agreeing to the fact that their child has been cyber-bullied (Source: Ipsos Report titled Global views on Cyber Bullying, 2018) Cyber bullying cases have always created some news in India but got particular attention because of the Momo Challenge scare in 2018, the Instagram Bois Locker Case in 2020 and Sonakshi Sinha’s Instagram video against cyber bullying in 2020.

If a student is being cyber bullied, he/she/they might be showing the following change in behaviour - avoiding use of mobile devices/computers, deleting social media accounts or becoming dormant, showing more anger, frustration or impatience in general and especially after receiving any online messages, being more secretive about online activities, showing reluctance to goto school/college and to hang out socially, showing deterioration in academic and extra-curricular performance, and insomnia.

When this student heard these traits, he could relate to them and hence asked this question. It was a very unique question because the cause of such behaviour is not necessarily cyber bullying but other negative aspects of Internet and Social Media usage. It takes a lot of courage to ask such a question openly when 100s of your school mates and many teachers and parents are listening. You can be trolled later just for asking such things. But these questions need to be asked as many others who can’t or won’t ask such questions, they get their concerns voiced.

“Thank you for asking this question and showing so much courage. Firstly, tell me what all things do you watch online before sleeping.”

“Before sleeping I generally read novels and in the screen time I have allotted myself, I play video games - not the violent ones but more passive ones. And I also watch TV during that time.”

This was going to be a live deconstruction, and hopefully a diagnosis of the issue this student was facing.

“Alright, can you tell which social media do you use and if anything happened (online) recently?”

“I only use Instagram.”

“Okay, so did anyone send you a threatening message or trolled you or made a meme on you recently?”

“My friend sent me messages from a fake account and started telling me things which a stranger would not know. I was surprised but after some time, he confessed and said it was all a prank.”

“So your friend told you at the end and has deleted the fake account and he doesn’t trouble you anymore?”

“Yes he deleted the account and doesn’t trouble me like that anymore.”

“Okay, so apart from this, are you thinking about something else? Are you a little tensed about the COVID situation? Or are you concerned about what is happening in the world generally? Are you stressed about online learning?”

He then took some time and in a shaking voice said, “All of these sir.”

Fortunately, this was not a case of cyber bullying. Unfortunately, it was a case where we have not been able to keep the stress of the general situation away from our most precious resource - our students and our children. We all think that by keeping our children physically safe, we are keeping them mentally safe as well. It doesn’t work that way. When a smart tech savvy internet generation adolescent is safe at home with access to news from around the world, they are bound to be influenced, and dare I say quite easily and adversely.

If we think, we have saved them from the crisis which is still unfolding as the second wave of the pandemic in India and other similar countries around the world, we are grossly mistaken. They feel just as angry, frustrated, helpless and hopeless as you do. A mentee student of mine from Delhi, who was supposed to appear for his 12th boards, spends hours every day and night trying to help people who need oxygen and beds and medicines. Is that the job of an 18-year old who is supposed to be on his way to be a video game designer?

However, if you want to know more about cyber-bullying and want to know what to do if you are being cyber-bullied, please get more details here

Our students are struggling with lack of accurate information about cyber bullying and the COVID pandemic. Trying to shut out information will never be the solution. Being open to discussion and treating them with the respect and the freedom they deserve is the solution. We are failing miserably at the pandemic, we can’t fail our students. 

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.

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