BENGALURU: In today’s world, cyber bullying wreaks havoc in the lives of its victims. Cyber bullying involves sending violent and threatening messages to a person through the medium of technology. Bullying in the offline space entails a physical act like harassment or sexual abuse but with the advent of internet, teenagers and adults being more virtually present, the risk of bullying has spread from the real into the virtual world. Cyber bullying is a different type of bullying which needs special attention from parents and teachers apart from the efforts made to curb bullying.
Debarati Halder, advocate and Managing Director, Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling in her research said that cyber bullying is a type of online harassment which is defined as hurling harsh, rude and teasing remarks through messages or online platforms targeting a person’s physical structure, educational qualifications, personal life, family, sexual orientation, habits and outlook.
Regarding cyber bullying, there are certain new policies in school which will help the child if they are facing any kind of bullying, in and out of the class. The students are encouraged to look up for types of cyber bullying and ways to prevent it, the school organizes presentations, discussions and classroom meetings to make the students aware of the effects of cyber bullying. The school staffs are also made aware of the effects and consequences of cyber bullying and about the policies of the school and how to regulate them.
According to reports from Gurgaon polic, cyber bullying cases were on a rise in Gurgaon (Gurugram) when compared to the previous years as the cops filed almost 103 cases in 2016 and on December 29, almost 19 cases were filed at a single go. Most of these frauds were done through phone calls as the bullies called up the victims personally to dupe money from them which was approximately around 10 lakhs.
In the face of this new development, government has put in place a law to counter cyber bullying. The Information Technology Act (2000) aims to safeguard the victims of cyber bullying under section 66A, 67, 67A, 67B, 69A, 70 under Chapter 11. Section 66A provides punishment for sending offensive messages through the communication platforms. The Act was in effect from October 2000 and it was later amended in Lok Sabha in 2006 and further amended in Rajya Sabha in 2008. Hence the act can be called the Information Technology Act (2008). In the new act, Section 66A has been ruled out by the Supreme Court by saying that it is unconstitutional in its entirety.
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However, the relevant section of this Act has to be brought into play by victims which seldom happen. According to the Cyberbullying Research centre, those who are bullied would get into depression or commit suicide too. The various observations on cyber bullying have shown that when the kids and teenagers get bullied they generally do not inform their parents and peers because they feel that their parents would curb them from using the internet rather than taking action against the bully.
According to a survey conducted under the commissioned project by Microsoft Corporation in 2012, India is ranked third when it comes to cyber bullying, after China and Singapore. 33% stated to have been bullied online in China and 1 out of 3 students stated to have been cyber bullied in Singapore. Ipsos- a global market research company which conducted a survey in 2012 stated that Indian parents believed a child was being cyber bullied whereas 53% of the Indian parents were aware of the issue.
Statistics have shown that the cyber bullying has only increased in India over the year and accordingly in an Intel security report, “Teens, Tweens and Technology study 2015”, about 81% of children in India from the age group of 8-16 are active users of social networking sites out of which 22% stated to have been bullied online and 65% reported to have witnessed cruel behaviour online. Whereas according to a recent Telenor India WebWise survey by Norwegian telecom giant Telenor in 2016, 15% of students reported to have been bullied online and 10% complained to have faced humiliation online through pictures/videos and 35% of kids reported of their account being hacked. The recent survey was conducted across schools in 13 cities in India involving 2727 students which shows that cyberbullying in India has increased with time.
Sanheeta Ved, a psychological counsellor at ‘Mind Matters’, one of the clinics in Mental Healthcare in India said, “Cyber bullying is different for different age groups. It exists in many areas of life and is not susceptible for a target group. It can happen to children as well as adults and older people.”
She further added, “Everybody is using technology as a means of communication because of which personal face to face communication is lost. Everybody is looking to have more friends and likes on facebook and when you are looking at something like that, the tendency to get popular is really high. The root cause of cyber bullying is low self-esteem.” She also said that cyber bullying is threatening to expose a person and most of it happens in texting also. “People do things they are embarrassed about and the fear and guilt within them stops them from taking any action or speaking to anyone like their parents or peers,” she added.It is not only students and teenagers in schools and colleges who get bullied over the internet but celebrities suffer as well.
Vahbiz Dorabjee, an actress on Indian television who was a victim of cyber bullying said, “It happens with many actors where fans take their craziness to another level. It is very cheap and disgraceful as people on the Internet do not know the real you. If the bullying and calling names crosses the limit you have to take it to the cybercrime or else ignoring is the best thing to do. Giving no reaction is also some kind of a reaction. There are certain parameters set and if people try crossing it then I would definitely file a report to the cybercrime.”
Debarati Halder, the Managing Director of the Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling (CCVC), Chennai made a distinction between cyber bullying and online harassment and stalking. They are inter related to each other, she points out. She tried to reach out to the victims through her blogs and by organizing awareness campaigns in schools
She said, “In my research, I have found that both youngsters and adults are affected by cyber bullying. One of the main reasons is jealousy. In the case of kids, bullying usually starts in school as students bully each other regarding their body shape, beauty, marks or sexual orientation. Most of the times children do not know where to stop and where to begin.” She said that with cyber bullying increasing today, it can also lead to other offences like impersonation, defamation or sexual harassment.
She agreed that children who might have been bullied may not know whom to report it to and how to do it. It’s the parents who generally complain about their kids being too addictive to the social media sites and the counsellors will only know what is happening once they interact with the kids. Comparatively, the teenagers from the age of 16-18 are more aware of what bullying is and they mostly end up talking to the counsellors if not their parents and peers.
“The statistics of cyber bullying have been increasing over the years. Cyber bullying was not prominent and children were unable to understand the nature of the offense as most of them did not know that this is actually an offense,” she further added.
She pointed out that with the increasing usage of social media everything that happens generally goes public. She added that when kids are taught bad touch and good touch in school, they must also be taught about bad talk and good talk. They must be taught to not hurt others while talking and not to cross the limits irrespective of their age. She stressed on teaching the kids the right usage of public platform so that they don’t misuse it.