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A thorough inquisition into the Social stigma we call BULLYING

In Kolkata, 11 year old Oindrilla Das was locked in a school bathroom by senior classmates after school hours. The trauma she endured was so great it resulted in her death several days after the attack.

 

In Bengaluru, 14 year old Raunak Banerjee, a class IX student from Baldwin Boys School, committed suicide after being bullied by a fellow student while traveling in a private van rented for school transportation. Raunak, who was described as a “sensitive child,” was apparently humiliated by being taunted in front of his peers. The bully was named in a suicide note left by the victim before he jumped to his death from the 10th story of his apartment building. School buses seem to be a favorite haunt of student bullies along with playgrounds, hallways, bathrooms and other locations where kids don’t have much supervision.

We live in a time where technology and social networking, have become a very important part of our lives. But what we do not realise is what negativity can do to someone on a social platform.

 

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Of the many types of bullying in India – i.e. school bullying, workplace bullying, online bullying – cyberbullying is perhaps one of the worst. Cyberbullying can be defined as the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. But the definition doesn’t just end here. We all know that there’s a section on all the networking sites where we can leave a “comment” about the person on a social platform. Now when someone abuses you, shames you, humiliates you in front of the whole world, the degree of “shame” felt is so much more than just “corridor” bullying or workplace bullying where it happens in a restricted area. But cyber bullies defame you on a platform where the whole world gets to know. Then there is the risk of your fake I.D’s being made, your photos being photo shopped to something vulgar and used to blackmail, there’s stalking, etc.

Online abuse is a term that encompasses a number of cyber offenses to include cyberbullying, online defamation, stalking, hacking and identity theft.

In McAfee’s ‘Tweens, Teens and Technology’ Report for 2014, approximately 50% of youth in India had personal experience with cyberbullying as either a victim or witness to cyber attacks. One third of this number confessed to being victims of online harassment.

Of those who witnessed cyber offenses, 46% reported that the victims later deleted their social accounts due to the negative impact of their experience. Cyber offenses can intrude on a person’s privacy and reputation as well as ruin their social experiences online.

These facts about cyberbullying corroborate the extent of the problem among Indian youth. According to Anja Kovas, director of the Internet Democracy Project, India has seen a steady increase in cyber offenses due to the increase of Internet use in the country. She predicted that the abuse would continue to grow as more young people came online. One year later, Kovas’ predictions seem to have come true as evidenced by McAfee’s 2015 report sharing statistics of bullying online.

 

2015 Online Bullying Statistics-India

Of those participating in the 2015 McAfee survey:

  • 81% of children between 8 and 16 years old said they are active participants on social sites; 22% admitted to being bullied online
  • 52% of Indian youth confessed to bullying others on social sites
  • 65% reported witnessing abusive behavior online
  • 52% of youth said they access social sites in school; tweens get online more while attending school than teens (57% vs. 47%).
  • 92% of youth reported posting risky information online, despite being aware of the dangers of identity theft (70% posted personal contact details to include email, phone number and home address)
  • 53% of Indian young people admitted to meeting strangers online
  • 64% of youth try to “reinvent” themselves online by creating fake profiles and photos to appear older
  • 89% of the young people polled felt ‘likes, shares and favorites’ on their online profiles increased their self-image
  • 46% would risk their safety to receive more comments, likes and shares
  • 78% felt Facebook was the favored platform for bullying, with Twitter coming in second

 

Despite these alarming bullying facts, most Indian parents remain apathetic about their kids’ online activities, making little or no effort to talk about online security and safety to their kids.

Traditional bullying and cyberbullying share similar characteristics. Both cause others harm; both are done with malicious intent; and both have long lasting negative effects on both bullies and victims. Internet bullying, however, is often more spiteful and longer lasting due to negative material staying online indefinitely after being posted. There’s always the danger that malicious photos, videos or posts can be resurrected again and again. However, there are no hardcore laws against cyberbullying in India, though a few laws can be used to fight against it.

By: Aakanksha Yadav

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