Cyberbullying: A curse for society

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Dr Riktesh Srivastava

Associate Professor, Information Systems

Skyline University College, Sharjah

With more than three thousand million Internet users worldwide, the Internet plays an increasingly significant part in people’s day-to-day lives. Nowadays, society, and particularly the youth, live with the Internet. The Internet, however, has proved to be a dual decorated sword – on one hand, it brings exceptional convenience to everyday life, and on the other hand, provides a breeding ground for various objectionable behaviours. One such behaviour is called Cyberbullying, a type of bullying that ensues via electronic media. Mounting episodes of, and misfortunes from, cyberbullying have warned educationalists, government, and parents to the severe concerns of this new form of bullying.

Characteristics of Cyberbullying

Although Cyberbullying is a type of bullying, it is quite different from traditional bullying. One of the main characteristics is the bully’s knack to stay anonymous. Looking around a classroom it is tough to point out a cyberbully or even a person getting cyberbullied. Often, the culprit is unaware of the harm he/she causes to the victim. Other classmates deepen the harm perpetrated on the victim by sharing, retweeting, forwarding the messages or even liking the negative status of the victim posted by anonymous bully. When the bully gains an audience, it seems difficult for the victim to end the abuse and stop others from sharing the information, or to eliminate the information permanently.

Characteristics of bullies and victims

The psychosomatic effects of cyberbullying on its victims are the same as that of traditional forms of bullying. They include: low self-esteem, depression, anger, anxiety, academic difficulties, university avoidance and often suicide. Youth who are nervous, reserved, diffident and deserted are at jeopardy for cyberbullying. Bullies are characterised as vicarious and aggressive. They use this aggression to create power and ascendency over the victims. This study also confirms that cyberbullying is frequently committed by individuals who were earlier victims of some form of bullying. Sometimes, even victims turn to bullies to react by cyberbullying those who they consider cyberbullied them. Others partake in cyberbullying to exhibit their cyber skills – this provides them a sense of influence or aptitude. Many students enjoy the attention given from peers as they witness others talking about or sharing their work. Others get involved in cyberbullying due to peer pressure.

UAE and Cyberbullying: Statistical Analysis

Cyberbullying, as a term, is still not documented worldwide, and this study was piloted by enquiring with students about any form of negative online experience. It was observed that 7% of students in UAE equated to the world average of 37% who complained about cyberbullying.

The activities are divided into three categories:

  • 4% of students observed unfriendly treatment from either peers or someone anonymous
  • 3% of students reported incidents of being made fun of or teased on social media
  • 1% of students complained about being called by mean names on social media

Actions to be taken when bullying is suspected

Authorities of colleges or universities should respond to all incidences of bullying in order to propel the message that bullying in any form is not tolerable. The actions authorities can take are divided into four steps:

Step 1 (The Bullying Test):The test starts when any student complains about cyberbullying. The authorities should check whether the instance of cyberbullying occurred at all. The authorities can ask the student for any evidence of the incident and make a note of it.

Step 2 (The Level Test):This step fixes the level of cyberbullying by categorizing it into Level 1 (Low Level) or Level 2 (High Level). This can be achieved by inspecting the online profile of the victim, the statements written by the bully and scrutinising the online profile of the bully.

Step 3 (The Action Test):The Action Test can only be accomplished when it is known that the bully and victim are the students of the same college/university. If the bully is anonymous, the authorities can complain on the following numbers in the UAE: Abu Dhabi-02 512 7777, Dubai-04 609 6944 and Sharjah-06 800 151.

For Level 1 Magnitude, the authorities can take CIA Testing as:

  • Check it Out: Why the incidence occurred
  • Indication- Inform the bullying student of the penalties
  • Assistance- Assist the victim to overcome emotional and psychological pain

For Level 2 Magnitude, the authorities can execute RES Testing as :

  • Respond: Issue a consequence for the bully
  • Echo: Report to the decision-making authorities
  • State: State the action to be taken

Step 4 (The Disciplinary Step): Recognise the disciplinary steps for Level 2 type of Cyberbullying.

Conclusion

Because of the extensive use and accessibility of technology among college students,cyberbullying is a severe problem. Cyberbullying often leads to suicide, violence or dropout, and for these reasons it is vital that colleges/universities address this problem before it rankles. It is imperative that entities on the college /university devise strategies to fight this issue. Framing policies, educating students and raising awareness are key to decreasing cyberbullying.