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.
- Do not respond or retaliate to strangers. When you get unknown messages or friend requests, it’s best to ignore them and ensure that they do not have access to your online network
- Do not agree to meet strangers you befriend online in real life
- Check your security settings and enable content sharing only with the people you want to share it with
- If you are getting Cyberbullied, please take screenshots and keep the evidence of threatening messages/photos/emails
- Seek help from others. Peer pressure is even more dangerous online and once you’re. A target, navigating the online world can threaten your online well-being as well as physical well-being.
- Speak up and report the attacker to the online platform. All major social media platforms and gaming sites have reporting options and tight security settings, making them aware of such bullies also prevents them from targeting other innocent online users.
- You can file a complaint on [email protected]
- These are the Anti-Bullying Cyber Laws in India:
- Sec.66A – Sending offensive messages through communication service, etc.
- Sec.66C – Identity Theft
- Sec.66D – Cheating by personation by using the computer resource
- Sec.66E – Violation of privacy
- Sec.67B – Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material depicting children in any sexually explicit act, etc. in electronic form
- Sec.72 – Breach of confidentiality and privacy
- Sec.503 Indian Penal Code (IPC) – Sending threatening messages through email
- Sec.509 IPC – Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman
- Sec.499 IPC – Sending defamatory messages through email
- Sec .500 IPC – Email Abuse
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
- Do not befriend absolute strangers online
- Be wary of fake profiles and if you find a request from a suspicious profile then check their photos, about section and how recent the profile is
- Ignore/block personal messages from unknown online users
- Enable security settings that allow you to specify content sharing with just the people in your network
- Do not agree to meet an online stranger in real life
- If a new online friend is asking for suspicious information or private photos, please report them to the online platform
3. Fear of missing out & 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 Peerpressure 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
- Start a conversation about social media and make your kids aware of peer pressure online
- Understand the kind of influence the online world can have on your kids well-being
- Instead of punishment or no technology rule, create an environment of trust where they can approach you for advice or help
- Stay updated with the various social media platforms that are popular and explore online literacy
- Explain to them that the Internet never forgets and it’s not cool to share someone’s photo, information or video without their consent
- Talk to them about online threats and the tools of online empowerment
- Encourage them to report misbehaviour online and offline
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
- It is crucial to have a strong password with a combination of small and CAPITAL letters, numbers, symbols and other characters
- Always enable two-factor authentication to save your profile from easy hacking
- Yes, you have a right to share anything online but it comes with the responsibility of not intentionally harming/bullying/targeting another individual
- Ignore or block requests from complete strangers
- Do not respond to inappropriate messages or requests
- Do not click on links that are shared by strangers or look fishy
- Always ensure your profile has updated security settings enabled for protection
- Always, always ask for permissio
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.
- Always verify what you are indulging with, authenticity is key to being safe.
- Online games can be an addition but shouldn’t cut down on outdoor activities as it hinders physical, emotional and mental well being. The time with the screen should be restricted.
- Don’t let peer pressure come in your way and tell you what is cool. Pressure usually takes one down the drain. Define cool by yourself!
- Never hesitate to seek help. We all learn from our mistakes! Seek the help of parents and/or a trusted senior who would be able to help you get out of the situation and guide you properly
6. Inappropiate 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.
How do you know the person is not right?
- When you befriend a stranger who’s really inquisitive or keeps persuading you to reveal personal information or information that makes you uncomfortable. Anyone sending you click-bait links or asking about the parents financial details. Or even someone who persuades you to send naked photos or incriminating messages.
- You Better Watch Out: Be intuitive and aware. Be Sherlock, who would detect all the bad messages, and spotting the good from the bad is the foremost step of staying safe.
- Ignore, Block, Report (IBR): IBR should be your mantra. Don’t reply to any messages that make you feel uncomfortable – someone asking weird questions or personal details and/or pictures. Never replying is key!
What to do if you feel trapped in such a situation?
- Don’t hesitate, seek help: We all learn from our mistakes! What’s important is to be able to correct it. Seek the help of parents and/or a trusted senior who would be able to help you get out of the situation and guide you properly
6. 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
- Read beyond the headlines
- Consider the source and if it comes from a reputed, authentic source
- Check the author and the date of publication
- Check the sources for authentic evidence and other suggestive readings
- Be wary of articles or messages that promise miracles or dubious solutions
- Consider the images in the article and do a simple Google search
- Always search the keywords and check other articles to corroborate with the information
- Before forwarding any miraculous message, check with BOOM, AltNews or other fact checking services
- Telenor Group, (February 2017), “Asia’s parents speak up on cyberbullying”
- Landsford, J.E., & Banati, P., (2018), “Handbook of Adolescent Development Research and Its Impact on Global Policy”
- Srivastav, Taruka, (September 2019), “Line uses animated video series to help people spot and stop fake news”
- Kumar, Ajay, (December 2019),”Predators eye teens”
- Zaharia, Andra, (February 2020), “300+ Terrifying Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Statistics & Trends [2019 EDITION]”