Technology has its numerous benefits, as well as a ‘dark’ side that can be used for harm especially in the form of bullying known as cyberbullying. Bullying is recurrent aggressive behaviour that can be physical, verbal, emotional, and relational.
Cyberbullying is defined as an aggressive intentional act carried out by an individual or a group of persons using technology against the victim(s) who cannot easily defend him or herself.
Online aggression such as threats, mean comments, rude text, tweets, exposing secrets, posting of personal information, humiliating pictures, or videos, and spreading lies with the intention to hurt, malign, or embarrass someone. Also, impersonating a target/victim, posting secrets, gossips, and rumours with the aim of damaging the person’s reputation. These aggressions focus on things like a person’s gender, religious affiliations, race, or physical appearance. All these acts are against the law in many countries including Nigeria.
Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying has the potential for a wider audience. For example, mean texts or comments posted can be spread, shared, or retweeted (on Twitter) across different social media platforms faster which makes it almost impossible for a victim to avoid or escape the mean comment. Furthermore, Cyberbullies are mostly anonymous making it harder to prevent or traced.
Statistics of cyberbullying
- 38 percent of people experience cyberbullying on social media platforms daily.
- 33 percent of youth across the globe experience cyberbullying.
- Girls are 1.3 times more likely to experience cyberbullying.
- Cyberbullying is the number one online concern for teachers.
- Extreme cases of cyberbullying resulting in deaths.
Agents and Victims of Cyberbullying
- The Cyberbully.
The bully is the aggressor. In the most likely scenario, a cyberbully can also be a bully in a physical encounter.
- The Victims
Most victims of cyberbullies are children but teenagers and adults are sometimes on the receiving of cyberbullying. Usually, cyberbullies know their victims and target them based on favouritism or prejudice but sometimes they target a random person they know nothing about. In this instance, the aggression can be based on race, religion, gender, or people that fit their narratives.
- The Bystander.
A bystander with regards to cyberbullying is someone who witnesses cyberbullying but tends to do nothing about it. Bystanders think that avoiding the situation is the best decision to make but on the contrary, intervening actually helps in stopping cyberbullying just as intervention by adults in a traditional bullying scenario. Most cyberbullying happens in the presence of bystanders.
An ‘Upstander’ is one who witnesses cyberbullying and takes a stand against it. He or she does the right thing in that situation. An Upstander also encourages the victim being bullied to seek help or may help in reporting the abuse to the platform or authority.
The Effects of cyberbullying
It would seem that the effects of cyberbullying could be more severe than those of traditional bullying. Not only do the hurtful messages reach an unlimited audience, but the words and images are often preserved online (the internet never forgets) thus, making the bullying happen at any time, anywhere and as many times as possible.
Victims of cyberbullying experience a variety of physical, psychological, and emotional consequences. Complaints may be of everything from fear, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. For students, the consequences are more severe, apart from those already mentioned, it can also affect the student’s school activity and grades. In extreme cases, cyberbullying can lead to the victims being suicidal. Cyberbullying has a severe consequence on a person in many ways, but these can be overcome.
Warning Signs of cyberbullying.
If a person shows the following, it may be a warning sign:
- Displays signs of depression, anxiety, sadness, or fear, especially if the signs increase after the use of cell phones or computers.
- Avoiding friends or school.
- Drop in grade in school for no evident reasons.
- Venting indirect remarks that indicate a person is troubled or upset.
Prevention of Cyberbullying.
Dealing with cyberbullying is rarely easy, but there are steps that have been taken to help cope with this challenge. Some of them are but not limited to:
- Resist the urge to retaliate or response. Retaliation will only worsen the problem. Taking time off when being bullied gives the space needed, so there is no temptation on the part of the victim to fire back a response that may engage more bullying. Although, standing up to bully can be effective sometimes, at other times, it provokes the bully and makes it worse. Endeavour to keep evidence of bullying if possible, to help you prove your case if needed.
- Awareness.The first step in prevention of cyberbullying is to ensure that people are aware of the problem. Parents, teachers, guardians, and the whole community needs to be made aware of the consequences of cyberbullying. They also need to be made aware of the preventive measures. Awareness of bullying should be a continuous process as the methods of cyberbullying keeps evolving. People need to be made aware of various tips needed to cope and deal with being bullied. People need to be aware of how to:
- Report bullying – most online platform have report features. it is best to always report bullying on such platforms. Report always instead of responding.
- Block/Mute/Filter bullying: block feature is one of the best ways to prevent bullying, apart from blocking the bully, some platforms havefeatures to mute some certain hurtful words or URL.
- Never share personal information online: never share personal information online, be it photos, addresses, school, workplace. Think before posting. A bully should be made aware of the consequences of bullying and be taught how to be nice to people both online and offline.
- Keep/Save evidence. Keep screenshots, mean texts/comments. Keep as much of the evidence as possible. If the aggression continues and all the steps are exhausted, you can engage the relevant authorities with available evidence.
Nigeria’s Law Against Cybercrimes.
The Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act 2015. This act addresses cyber-related crimes, such as cyberterrorism, cyberstalking, and extended to cyberbullying. The Act proscribed cyberbullying and prescribe a punishment ranging from a fine of N2million to N25 million, imprisonment of 1 year to 10 years or both fine and imprisonment depending on the gravity of the offence.
Certfort Ltd Professional Services to Victims of Cyberbullying.
Certfort is an ICT organisation with highly experienced professionals that can help raise awareness of online threats and offer such services as:
- How to protect your identity and be safe online such as never to share personal information online such as addresses, telephone, or email addresses.
- How to protect your systems online by regular updating of systems and security software. An updated system is a secured system that is safe from hackers, scammers, and other online threats.
- How to protect their accounts and devices. Certfort will train on how to create unique passwords for each of your online accounts and how to utilize the password manager application in securing each of your passwords.
- How to activate anti-bullying features such as Block, Mute, filtering &reporting of cyberbullies, abuses and aggressions on the online platforms. We will show you how to maximise the use of privacy tools and settings.