It’s important to shut the windows on cyberbullying

It’s important to shut the windows on cyberbullying


Cyberbullying or harassing someone on the Internet is a faceless evil which is fast becoming a growing threat for teenagers and can do irreparable damage to the mental health and wellbeing of young people.
It involves using technology through cell phones and the Internet to harass, bully, or shame another person. It can take the form of sending threats and negative messages to a person’s email account or cell phone, spreading rumors through online forums, sexting, or circulating sexually suggestive pictures or messages about a person without that individual’s consent. In the age of the Internet, the opportunity to bully others has become easier, whereby harassment can take place at the click of a button and reach a wider audience.
In today’s technologically-driven world, cyberbullying is emerging as a major public health issue which is resulting in an increase in mental health-related problems among teenagers and adolescents.
In its severest form, it can result in extremely low self-esteem, with individuals resorting to bodily harm, often leading to an increase in suicide rates. 
Research presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Society’s meeting showed that the number of teens and adolescents admitted to hospital for attempting suicide has increased in the past decade. 
According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, with approximately 4,400 deaths taking place every year in the US alone.

In today’s technologically-driven world, cyberbullying is emerging as a major public health issue which is resulting in an increase in mental health-related problems among teenagers and adolescents.

Dr. Mehreen Mujtaba

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is the UK’s leading charity for children. According to the NSPCC, children as young as five are on social media and one in three has been the victim of cyber-bullying.
According to the center, which has been collecting data since 2002, more than 80 percent of teens use a cell phone, making it the most common medium for cyberbullying.
About half of the young population has experienced cyberbullying in one form or the other and around 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly.
Additionally, one in 10 teens has confided to their parents that they have been a victim of cyberbullying, while one in five have shared sexually suggestive or nude photos of themselves with others, which has inadvertently been spread around. The prevalence of bullying is the same among girls as it is for boys — both as perpetuators and as victims.
Online safety of children is of paramount importance in today’s technologically-advanced world with global trends suggesting that much more attention is being focused on cyberbullying than ever before.
There is a need for urgent and effective intervention to counter the threat. In 2015, the National Assembly passed the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill (PECB), which includes punishment for online sexual harassment. It is high time provocation leading to self-harm and suicides were criminalized.
The Digital Rights Foundation — a brainchild of Nighat Dad —  is a group which aims to strengthen measures for human rights’ protection, with a special focus on women. It recognizes the scale of the problem in Pakistan, and unveiled the country’s first cyber harassment helpline to provide legal and psychological support to young girls and women facing online bullying and threats.
However, much needs to be done to address the growing epidemic. Legislative measures based on accurate empirical data could take the cause further. We can’t turn a blind eye and claim that this problem is only confined to the west. 
As the influence and use of social media continues to grow in Pakistan, there is a need to educate users. Awareness programs to sensitize the youth about the potentially damaging consequences of cyberbullying is required not only at the school or community level, but needs to include mass awareness campaigns by the media which can play a positive role in understanding the dynamics of this silent threat to our youth.
Encouraging children to discuss issues with their parents is essential in order to reinforce in a child the conviction that it’s not their fault if they are or have been bullied.
With the cybercrime agencies in place, encouraging the victims to keep the number and messages as a proof against the perpetuator is important.
Parental control and keeping a check on a child’s access to social media accounts, email and cell phones is essential to making sure that if a child is either being bullied or is a bully, both issues can be handled effectively.
In Pakistan, our law enforcement agencies must track and take stern action against perpetuators of cyberbullying — a real threat of our times which parents and children must tackle together.
– Dr. Mehreen Mujtaba is a freelance consultant working in the area of environment and health. She has a keen interest in Climate Change and it’s impacts on population health and human security.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view