What's the deal with cyber bullying?

By: Medha R Krishnan

Cyber bullying can pose a significant threat to anyone who is active on social media, at anytime. The present day teenagers have spent most of their life being active on social media, sharing and divulging their most secret thoughts. Social media sites likes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram adds  great value to a person’s life, by providing a forum to connect and interact but also can open up a person’s life to an entire world out there which comprises of people who may not be their well-wishers.
Privacy does not seem to be a value cherished by the present generation which seems to pose problems of its own. There are children who literally grew up, with their parents posting daily normal day photographs or staged pictures which are shared millions of times, on various sites. These are photographs which can be easily accessed by someone who lives across the globe and it is up to them to decide how they want to use them, quite a scary thought.
Over-sharing is the norm of the day and most school-age children seem to be sharing their day to day activities on social media which includes their pictures, giving clues to their location and details about their family. Number of friends on  the sites seem to  add to the prestige and popularity,  and in the race to improve their  feeling of self-worth, children seem to be accepting  anyone and everyone as a “friend” without realizing that the person on the other side may not be who he/she claims to be. This “friend” now has the ability to see us, see our family and know some of our deepest thoughts. By bringing them on as our “friend” we are also giving them the ability to influence us through their own posts and their comments on our sites.
Cyber bullying is the attempt to harass or humiliate a person through the use of technology or online media. Examples could be posting rude comments on a picture or by direct messaging, creating a site/page against someone, invasion of privacy, blackmailing, harassment, identity theft, gossip and rumors. These can happen anywhere online especially on Facebook and Instagram. 67% of online aggression occurs on private messaging. There have been several examples of cyber bullying cases ending fatally when someone across the world gently coaxed, suggested, bullied and forced young teenagers into prostitution, pornography and even suicide.
Digital spaces do not thoroughly convey the tone and the emotion behind the message and we have been left with “emojis” to convey the meaning of the message. Therefore, it is much easier for someone to misinterpret a message as rude or harsh when it was meant as a simple statement.
Cyber Bullying can start by one comment that can then cause a trend and a line of similar comments to support the first comment. From all of the comments and negativity, it is very easy for the situation to spin out of hand and the severity of the situation to increase to potential threats and blackmailing.  At times mob psychology also comes into play when several people repeat a negative comment leading to harassment of a much severe nature.
In our race for acceptance and feeling loved we are open to accepting a ‘friend request” from anyone and everyone thereby opening ourselves to cyber bullying. It is time for us to sit and think as to what needs to be shared on the net and who it should be shared with. Also we need to  understand  that our self-worth is not linked to the number of “likes “ that we get or the number of online “friends” we have,  but our worth is linked to who we are, our integrity, character, education and value system.
The victims of cyber bullying can be anyone, but the most targeted groups are members of the LGBTQ community, certain cultural communities and children.  They can be lured by false information into difficult situations or simply attacked through messages.
Cyber bullies can be anybody but are currently considered “Trolls”, who simply go around posting negative comments for no apparent reason, gain pleasure from the victim’s suffering, and leave. Therefore, not all cyber bullies have motives. However, cyber bullies can also be people you know well who may simply be envious or who may not like you and would rather spill their anger towards you on a public online space under a different username.
Cyber Bullying can eventually lead to many things such as depression, self-harm and suicide. There has been several examples of cyber bullying cases ending fatally when someone across the world gently coaxed, suggested, bullied and forced young teenagers into prostitution, pornography and even suicide. Let us learn from what   Amanda Todd and Ryan Halligan went through in North America and how their lives had to end tragically. However, the one thing that all cyber bullying stories have in common is that they were all started by a video, rumor, photo, screenshot or insult. Technology has started to be used as a weapon and it is important that we know how to deal with cyber bullies before the situation gets too out of hand. 
Cyber Bullying follows the same legal rules of stalking and harassment and cyber bullies can therefore be charged in certain situations. There are many campaigns run internationally and within countries such as “CyberSmile”, “Stop Cyber Bullying Day “and “Wired Safety”  which help victims and people who are passionate about stopping cyber bullying.
 I had the unique opportunity of being able to get in contact with the founder of the WiredSafety organization- Parry Aftab.
Parry Aftab is an American lawyer and a world-renowned Internet Safety Expert who is very passionate about keeping kids safe on the net and maintaining a positive environment on cyberspace.
An interview with Ms. Aftab to follow in the next edition.



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