‘Cyber bullying,’ which poses a serious threat to the society, particularly among teenagers, is a problem that can be avoided, say experts.
They say cyber bullying is on the rise in the UAE, which is consistent with the global trend. The youth in the UAE are as vulnerable to these attacks as anyone else. In the worst case scenario, it can drive them to take their own lives.
The 999 August 2014 cover story ‘Beware of Bullies,’ dwelt elaborately on the harmful effects of cyber bullying and suggested remedial measures by sifting opinions from experts. Cyber bullying is the use of information technology to harm or harass other people in a deliberate, repeated, and hostile manner. With the increase in use of these technologies, cyber bullying has become increasingly common, especially among teenagers.
“The Internet and social media networks, extremely useful things in themselves, also seem to bring out the worst in people. And teenagers are remarkably incautious about whom they add to their social network. The upshot is that threats, blackmail and trolling are becoming increasingly common,” the report said.
Cyber bullying could be limited to posting rumours or gossips about a person in the internet bringing about hatred in other’s minds; or it may go to the extent of personally identifying victims and publishing materials severely defaming and humiliating them.
“Teachers and parents in the UAE have been feeding back to us, saying that cyber bullying is becoming more and more of an issue. We’ve seen some really tragic cases around the world, where bullying has got to the point where the singled-out party has seen no other way out than to end their own life. This phenomenon is a serious threat to society,” said Barry Lee Cummings, founder of ‘Beat the CyberBully’ campaign.
Lt Colonel Awadh Saleh Al Kindi, Editor-in-Chief of 999, said, “Cyber bullying should not be treated lightly. Ignoring this gives cyber-bullying perpetrators a signal that adults don’t care and that it is an acceptable behavior. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that today’s youngsters don’t grow up scarred and damaged. The UAE leadership constantly works to close any remaining gaps in the edifice of social security. The cover issue of 999 helps us to understand why and how it happens and what the society can do as a whole.”
Bullying in schools
What is it that makes cyber bullying so dangerous, and what differentiates it from typical bullying in schools? “Cyber bullying can occur 24 hours a day and 7 days a week due to the ubiquitous nature of the electronic media and the Internet,” Dr Dan Florell, a cyber bullying expert and school psychologist, told the magazine. A cyber bullying incident might also have the chance to reach a far larger audience than a traditional act of bullying in a school. A child’s humiliating moment might ‘go viral’ across the Internet, haunting them long after the incident has taken place.
“This can leave one’s social world isolating and humiliating. For some kids, that is too much to deal with,” said Dr Joel Haber, founder of RespectU, a bully prevention and management resource for companies, schools, camps, sports teams, parents and children.
“Adolescent mental health can be very susceptible when teens encounter situations where they have no control and there is no perceived end to a situation. This describes cyber bullying and also explains common results such as depression, anxiety, psychosomatic problems (physical health issues with mental causes), lower academic performance, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. Results can, indeed, be severe. People across the world, including in the UAE, have been shocked to discover that this sort of harassment can lead to suicide,” Dr Florrell said.
Dr Vicki Panaccione, Psychologist, Better Parenting Institute, offers the following survival tips:
• Remember that anything you post can be sent anywhere, copied or even change.
• Only post information, photos or videos of things that you think is okay for the world to see.
• If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, then don’t post it online.
• Make sure your password is something that others couldn’t guess, like your birthday, pet’s name, etc.
• If you are the victim of cyber bullying, feeling the “effects of cyber bullying” or even know someone affected, report it to parents/teachers.
• If the messages you get are threatening and scaring you, make sure you save all messages and turn them over to the police.
• Be careful not to become a cyber bully yourself, in retaliation against being bullied.
• Take a stand: don’t participate in cyber bullying if you are with friends who do it.
The report suggested that since social media evils are not going to disappear overnight – maybe never – the only way out is to build up the defences. For this, parents, teachers and peers all have different roles to play in protecting victims.
The report concluded that with the world developing faster than ever, the UAE, too, needs to be mindful of new threats. But enough hard work from all sides could make cyber bullying a thing of the past.
The 999 English Magazine is a part of the strategic plan of the Ministry of Interior to provide media coverage for the activities and efforts of the Ministry and Abu Dhabi Police. It also aims to encourage the public to contribute to the reduction of crime and enhancement of safety in the UAE.
Monday, August 18- 2014 @ 14:59 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.