A study conducted in 28 countries by a UK-based consumer tech review firm Comparitech showed that India recorded the highest rate of children falling victim to cyberbullying in 2018. A rise from 15% in 2016 to 37% in 2018, children in India are the worst victims of cyber bullying in the world.
Where can Cyberbullying occur?
- Social Media
- Text Messages
- Gaming Platforms
Cyberbullying can happen over various online platforms and can have different forms but being vigilant and alert is the need of the hour to be able to prevent it:
- Humiliating or embarrassing content posted online with the intention to harm an individual
- Sharing private photos without consent
- Creating harmful memes or rumours about na individual to humiliate them or ostracise them from their peers online
- Stalking an individual, sending them constant message demanding them to talk or send photos
- Threading someone with physical harm
- Posting sexual or vulgar messages on an individual’s timeline or trolling them with abusive language
- Spamming with unnecessary and unwanted messages, photos, reshares to gain attention
When it comes to these triggers, a lot of children ignore Cyberbullying or fear punishment at home. It is very important to create an inclusive environment at home where your child can talk to you about their online activities and share their experiences.
With India’s rate of fake profiles ranging across social media platforms, it has become increasingly easy for sexual predators to target kids and take advantage of unsuspecting minors under the garb of virtual anonymity. The 2019 case of the Telangana teen girl’s attempted rape and murder by a 28-year-old man she met online is how dangerous it is to let children be online without supervision or knowledge of how to make their profiles safe. These cases of cyberpredators using innocent kids for ‘sextortion’ and blackmail has led to numerous cases of children suffering with mental health issues and some have even led to these kids committing suicide. In light of such cases and complaints, Delhi Police also launched a comprehensive crackdown on sexual predators, with the help of tips provided by a US-based NGO, in 2019.
How Can I Spot a Cyberpredator?
- A cyberpredator is often a stranger who sends you a friend request or insistent messages
- They demand emotional attachment and tell you takes to get your empathy
- They start out as friendly and good listeners but will slowly come in between your relationships with other friends
- They start giving you advise like not to talk to your parents about them or share their conversations with other friends
- They isolate you from your network and make you believe they’re the only one you can trust
- They can have abrupt requests like asking to share a photo or private information
3. Fear of Missing Out and Peer Pressure
While adults still find themselves struggling with the vast and speedy expansion and development of the online world, our kids have grown up with the internet and the numerous social media platforms. For them, playing video-games, being online, having access to this technology seems ‘natural’ and restricting it can fare badly. Kids feel that they’re ‘missing out’ if they’re not constantly online, especially when they’re use digital devices to shop, play games, research, watch movies and connect with new people across the world.
How does Peer Pressure Work Online?
The people we befriend online now have a larger influence on our psyche and self-development. Children feel compelled to come online and sign-up on all online platforms with the fear of missing out, being included in the gaming circles or chat-rooms to become cooler, or they are easily influenced to join online platforms because their friends are on them. Peer pressure manifests in the following forms:
- The way we think having more followers= more popularity and friendships. This often influences us to just mindlessly accept requests to become cooler
- Chatrooms can be a great way to have meaningful conversations with your online network, but they can also be toxic where you share rumours, gossip, hurtful images or disrespectful memes
- Gaming platforms can get heated because of completion and lead to players being abused or cursed for not playing well
- Pressuring a friend who is socially anxious to come online just because the people they know are online
- Forcing someone to share secrets or private information and then leaking it without permission
- Asking your friends to sign-up on platforms that make them uncomfortable or sending them incriminating links
4. Diary Use
More often than not, a child’s social media is like a diary and an entry into their private life. With ease of access and being only a friend request away, it is possible to steal information and leak it online or blackmail the user with incriminating messages or photos.
What does Diary Use mean?
- Coming online is liberating for all users, not just in terms of access but also connection
- Especially for shy or socially anxious individuals, Internet is a great medium of self-expression
- Diary use is a term to highlight the excessive use of online platforms as a substitute to physical life
- Children often live their social life online and do not indulge in physical activities
- Diary use also makes individuals more vulnerable to online threats because of the amount of information that is available
What is Griefing?
- In young kids, the use of internet or digital devices can become heavily addictive
- Often parents are noted saying that their kids only show enthusiasm when it comes to video games or being online and would rather choose that over studying or physical outdoors activity
- When their network starts doing everything digitally, then kids start substituting their physical presence with an online persona and apply personality development to the online profile
- Especially now, with Covid-19 prevention largely dependent on staying home and learning from home, children are doing upto 80% of their school, leisure and entertainment activities online
6. Inappropriate Content
Inappropriate content has been described in the Child Protection Act as visual depictions that are obscene, child pornography, or material that is “harmful to minors.” Categories under this topic include pornography, hate groups, violence, and illegal activity. And though social media can be a new “community” and encourage kids to learn new things and engage with different cultures, this engagement needs to be safe and responsible.
7. Fake News
While you may believe that fake news is an adult issue, children are actually more susceptible to reading and believing things online. With the introduction of meme culture and picture posts, kids see, like and believe things that are not verified and farfetched. For example, with global news about Coronavirus reaching users, memes and fake news about symptoms have also been widespread.
- Misinformation is false or incorrect information that is spread intentionally or unintentionally
- Disinformation is false information spread deliberately to deceive
- Malinformation that is based on reality, used to inflict harm on a person, organization or country
- Telenor Group, (February 2017), “Asia’s parents speak up on cyberbullying”
Retrieved from https://www.telenor.com/asias-parents-speak-up-on-cyberbullying/
- Landsford, J.E., & Banati, P., (2018), “Handbook of Adolescent Development Research and Its Impact on Global Policy”
Retrieved from https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/AdolescentHandbook.pdf
- Srivastav, Taruka, (September 2019), “Line uses animated video series to help people spot and stop fake news”
Retrieved from https://www.thedrum.com/news/2019/09/13/line-uses-animated-video-series-help-people-spot-and-stop-fake-news
- Kumar, Ajay, (December 2019),”Predators eye teens” Retrieved from https://www.indiatoday.in/msn-itt/story/predators-eye-delhi-teens-1627217-2019-12-11
- Zaharia, Andra, (February 2020), “300+ Terrifying Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Statistics & Trends [2019 EDITION]” Retrieved from https://www.comparitech.com/vpn/cybersecurity-cyber-crime-statistics-facts-trends/