This article was first posted on STORM. We reproduce here the parts that were contributed via phone interview.
Defining Cyber Bullying:
- Aggressive and negative behaviour exhibited through a technological platform
- Intentionally done with the aim to cause harm to someone
- The negative actions are done multiple times over a period of time and its consequences are repeated too, as posts made online remain there and can be seen by many people
- There is a power imbalance in the relationship between the bully and the victim. Victims often find that they are helpless and are unable to “fight back” against their aggressor
Cyber Wellness Research Data
Our research shows that about 10% of school children have experienced cyber bullying either as aggressors or victims.
Behaviour that doesn’t meet the above criteria is termed online aggression. It is far more common, affecting two-thirds of Internet users. While not as harmful, it can escalate to bullying if left unchecked in youths.
Children in their developmental years need to be nurtured and taught how to deal with the world around them and this is slowly achieved as they mature into young adults. However, the vast and varied space of the Internet opens the floodgates to many experiences — good and bad — and children are forced to grow up very fast. They may not yet be equipped with the skills to deal with the nature of these spaces and communities.
For example, the move from Primary 6 to Secondary 1 (and a new sense of independence and autonomy it brings) has shown to be a particularly trying transition where kids can be quickly exposed to the “real world” and the practices within.
The challenge when dealing with cyber bullying is the lack of awareness on the part of children. They often don’t realise what they are doing and saying online is nasty and hurtful. Sitting behind a computer screen, there is no feedback (in the way of facial expressions, body language, and social cues) for them to understand what effects their words and actions on the Internet can have on others. They need to be taught cognitive empathy and the consequences of their actions.
What Can Be Done
When dealing with the Internet, parents should teach children to conduct themselves well in cyber space — it is always best not to start, attract, or escalate aggression.
If your child finds himself being targeted by cyber bullies, he/ she should:
- Stop the exchange
- Block the aggressor
- Capture evidence
- Report the incident to an adult
Considerations for Parenting
As a parent you would not let your child roam around a strange new place unsupervised. Why would you then let them do so on the Internet?
Research has shown that the consumption of media violence, readily available from various avenues, also contributes to increasing aggression. This increased aggression in adults and children, exhibited both in cyberspace and in the real world, is a complex issue that needs attention in coming years. Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” solution we can use for a quick fix.
We run workshops in many formats to create awareness and address this issue. We engage parents, educators & students on Cyber Wellness, Media Literacy & Digital Citizenship. Inquire with us for our programmes info!