Rashid had gone to a beach resort with his friends during the holidays and enjoyed himself. When he went back to school, he found his classmates sharing jokes about him and calling him names. It hurt him and he didn’t want to join others for lunch. As he sat alone, his friend Ali came and told him about a picture of his that was posted on Facebook. The picture was tagged with a funny name and people had posted several comments about it. The Facebook page was a community page and there was no way to know who had done this. The more he thought about it, Rashid felt sick in his stomach and didn’t want to face anyone he knew. Rashid was now a victim – a victim of cyber bullying.
Cyber bullying is the use of technology to deliberately and repeatedly bully someone in an unhealthy and defaming way. Teens and adults underestimate the severity of cyber bullying and the impact it can have.
What does it include? It can take the form of abusive texts or emails; posting indecent and unkind messages or private images on social forums; tagging an image inappropriately; posting comments or jokes about others.
Does it differ from traditional bullying? Cyber bullying is similar to traditional (face-to-face) bullying. The impact of cyber bullying crosses over to the real world. In today’s digital world of social media, smart phone apps, 3g /4g invasion, words and images impact larger than actions and also hurts the most. The differences are (a) the difficulty in detecting who is responsible immediately, (b) the frequency with which it can occur as the Internet is accessible at all times (c) can involve a large audience, and (d) difficulty in eliminating weapons of bullying as it is largely verbal.
Is your friend being bullied? If you notice that your friend is avoiding talks about what they are doing online and gets easily upset or angry after they get online, they could be victims of cyber bullying. Other signs include withdrawal from family and friends, fall in academics, absenteeism at school and social gatherings, increasing complaints of feeling unwell, loss of appetite and appearance of anxiety/depression with mood swings. In extreme cases, suicidal thoughts may be voiced.
Why Cyber bully? Reasons why anyone would initiate cyber bullying can be feelings of jealousy, resentment to popularity, outlet to personal frustrations and perhaps being a victim themselves.
How to overcome it? The first step is to strike a balance between your online friends and real world friends. The next step is to talk about it with an adult you trust – parent, family member, or teachers. It is important to preserve evidence of messages or pictures used against you, but please do not respond to them. Remember, you are not alone and this can be fixed. You can be an overcomer.