Just as we would be kind to a friend, very often we are also unkind to a foe. And in the world of teenagers, sometimes unkindness can be unintentional and often unmindful.
In fact, research has shown that cyberbullying is more likely to occur between current or former friends than it is likely to occur between your child and a stranger. In the growing world of cyberbullying, peers are often the culprits of exposing our Instagram pictures we’d rather not have online, leaving hurtful comments on our Facebook posts, or publicly shaming our Tweets regularly.
Digi’s 2018 Yellow Heart Cyberbullying and Youth Disposition Survey 2018 found that 20.5% of school children say they have been bullied online while 42.1% know someone who is being bullied. With almost 1 in 5 children being cyberbullied, it can be inferred that cyberbullying cases are increasingly common among youths, especially as internet usage soars.
Some of the most common reasons for cyberbullying among youths revolve around body shaming, jealousy towards the victim and peer pressure in order to climb the social ladder.
Some of the most common reasons for cyberbullying among youths revolve around body shaming, jealousy towards the victim and peer pressure in order to climb the social ladder. To achieve a higher social status and acceptance, youths may give in to the pressure to belittle or shame others online.
The fact that the cyberbullies are often people we know adds insult to injury and makes the ordeal that much more painful. Cyberbullying can have a greater impact on victims as the bullying is often viewed by a wider audience. The hurtful comments posted online can haunt the victim for years but the people who post it can forget about it almost instantly as they don’t get to see the victim’s reaction as compared to bullying face to face.
Victims often feel like there is no escape as they feel the entire world is aware of what is happening. And the pervasiveness of bullying on personal devices can escalate to the point where children no longer feel safe even in the comfort of their own homes.
So, what can be done about the ever-growing threat of cyberbullying, especially amongst friends?
First, break the bystander effect of being a witness to a bullying incident that is wrong and not doing anything to make a difference. Friends and family need to support the affected individual during this time of distress. It can be as simple as speaking up or acting in support of the person, intervening so that they know that they are not left alone. If you are bullied online, you should also never be afraid to ask for help from an older sibling, parent or teacher.
Speak up or act in support of the person- intervene so that they know that they are not left alone.
Secondly, education and understanding the various intervention options such as blocking and reporting options is key to strengthening one’s digital resilience. Just as cyberbullying is often a vicious cycle, interjecting the situation with a word of kindness and introducing the concept of empathy that there’s always a person behind every profile picture or username will sometimes make a world of a difference for the victim as well as help the bully understand the weight of their actions.
Think twice before geotagging any photographs.
Finally, children should be mindful of their own internet habits. We should always think twice before posting anything online, and never say online what you will not say to someone face to face. When posting photos online, make sure it does not reveal any personal information as people might perceive things differently. For safety, we should think twice before geotagging any photographs to avoid sharing our location and ask permission before tagging a friend in a photo.
In this age of digital parenting, we should be aware of our children’s browsing habits and have preventive discussions with them about the dangers that they could be exposed to. Through this, parents can understand better the type of platforms or social media networks their child frequent, provide guidance on internet usage, and set basic rules to protect them from risks. Constant conversation also encourages children to speak up if they come across a negative experience or when encountering a problem, so that parents can then work together with the child to overcome the issue with intervention strategies.
Constant conversation also encourages children to speak up if they come across a negative experience or when encountering a problem.
We should also create a safe space for children online by using the family safety settings available on most of today’s popular mobile apps to ensure that our children are not exposed to age-inappropriate content or unnecessary dangers online. Make it a routine to spend some time together with your child on a few of their favourite online activities. Fun times are often a teaching opportunity that is crucial for the development of our children towards being a responsible digital citizen.
In today’s online world, it is getting more and more important to be mindful of what we post and what we comment as words have the power to build or to tear down lives. Watch the Digi Yellow Heart Cyber Series to learn more about kindness and empathy in the digital space.
More resources are available at http://www.digi.com.my/sustainability/yellow-heart.html