Children in today’s world grow up in a confusing and a constantly changing environment. The advent of technology has made the change all the more obvious, with children being introduced to social media and many digital platforms at a very young age. Given that the technology has enabled a child to stay ahead of time, it has also increased online bulling/ cyberbullying.
While bullying is an unwanted/aggressive behaviour seen most commonly among children, cyberbullying makes use of technology like the internet, email, messages, social media, etc. to bully people. Bullying can be physical like hitting, pushing, fighting, yelling or making rude gestures, or emotional like teasing, spreading rumours, leaving someone out and trying to make someone feel bad, etc. Cyberbullying is, in most cases, emotional. Irrespective of the form that bullying takes, it is more than just a problem, it is a crime.
According to a recent research conducted by a UK-based firm, Indian children are the most bullied in the world. Another research on bullying found social media to be a major contributor as most of it happens online.
There are numerous factors that can lead to bullying:
A child may bully his/her peer purely out of revenge. Oftentimes, kids who have been bullied seek revenge, to retaliate the pain they have experienced. Such children often feel justified by bullying because they have been through the same. Such bully-victims will either end up going after the bullies or will target someone they perceive to be weaker than them, eventually triggering a vicious circle of bullying.
To appear popular among peers
Some kids choose to become bullies, purely to appear popular among peers. Children also take up cyberbullying after observing peers or siblings doing the same.
To alleviate boredom
Children who are bored and look for entertainment will resort to cyberbullying, to add excitement to their life.
To come across as powerful
Social status can manifest itself into cyberbullying. Kids who are popular may make fun of kids who are not popular.
Children who resort to cyberbullying often lack empathy and consideration for others. Such children feel powerful and happy when they bully others.
Past experiences of similar nature
Children can turn into cyberbullies when they themselves have experienced bullying online.
Of all the other forms of bullying, bullies are appealed by cyberbullying due to its anonymity.
While there is nothing positive about it, it can only lead to numerous issues, like:
Lack of confidence
Children who are cyberbullied lose their confidence and appear dull.
Cyberbullying is also a form of humiliation. Children who are bullied online are humiliated and threatened.
Victims of cyberbullying isolate themselves from family and friends, either out of fear for the bully or out of low self-esteem.
Anger is the most prominent effect of bullying. Children who are bullied tend to show their anger on their family or friends.
Children being bullied can face extreme stress and can reduce their communication with people around them. This can lead to isolation and depression.
Children who are bullied are also prone to illnesses. They can either hurt themselves or can eat too much/too less and spoil their health
While most children find it difficult to talk to their parents/teachers about an incident involving bullying, there are certain signs that a teacher/parent can observe:
Unexplained weight loss/gain
A child who has been bullied will eat a lot (especially junk), to overcome stress and anxiety. A child may also stop eating food completely over fear of what the bully’s next step may be.
Nervous around gadgets
Despite being a technologically forward generation, children who have been cyberbullied may get nervous around gadgets, especially when they receive text messages, emails or messages on social media.
Trouble sleeping at night
Children who have been bullied find it difficult to sleep at night. Even if they do manage to sleep, they often end up with nightmares.
Withdrawal from friends and family
The most common indication of a child being bullied is his/her withdrawal from family and friends. The child may stop interacting with parents either out of fear or out of a belief that the parents would not believe the child’s ordeal.
Signs of self-harm/injury
Children who are bullied may end up inflicting injuries upon themselves to cope up with the threats of the bully
Inattentiveness in class or while talking to family members
Children tend to become distracted in class and do not pay attention to whatever is being taught. This results in poor grades. Children who are bullied also stop participating in family events or functions and prefer to isolate themselves.
While it is certainly not possible to do away with bullying immediately, schools and parents can take certain steps to address it in the nascent stage.
Help children understand values like empathy and concern
It has been found that, children who bully have also been bullied at some point in their life, thus, it is important to introduce them to values like empathy and interpersonal relationships from a very young age. Children need to be taught to use technology in a careful manner than in a reckless way.
Most of the bullying cases occur when children do not have anyone to share their emotions with. Schools can introduce counsellors to address children in distress and to hear them out when they need someone to talk to. Parents, on the other hand, can become friendlier with the child and encourage open conversations in the house, so that each one is aware about everything that happens in the other person’s life.
Keep a restriction on time spent online
Another important way to keep a check on cyberbullying is to monitor the child’s screen time and online activities. Teachers can monitor the usage of technology in the school.
Parents should make it a point to encourage their child to share their thoughts and emotions by creating an atmosphere that encourages open conversations. Teachers can encourage communication by being approachable to the students
Take immediate action
Parents and teachers should make it a point to address bullying at the initial stages itself. Putting off situations involving a bully for later will only end up causing more harm than good.
In a nutshell, bullying must be addressed as early as possible and the children should be discouraged from bullying anyone or succumbing to the pressures of bullying.