The given case study addresses the vulnerability of children to cyberbullying. As per UNESCO’s definition, cyberbullying involves bullying through digital technologies, occurring on social media, messaging platforms, gaming platforms, etc.
a) The increasing incidents of cyberbullying among children can be attributed to the following reasons:
1) Early exposure to the internet:
- The internet usage among children has surged, with approximately 14% of India’s 500 million active internet users being children aged 5-11 years, accessing the internet through family members’ devices.
- Unsupervised access to social media puts children at risk of encountering online predators.
2) Cultural and legal censorship in India: The focus on regulating displays of sexuality rather than gore and violence in media content can impact children’s psyche, as age-appropriate distinctions, like UA ratings, may be lacking.
3) Impact of globalization: The rise in dual-income families due to globalization leaves parents with less time to monitor their child’s emotional and mental well-being.
4) Decline of family values: The prevalence of nuclear family structures and lack of elderly support can negatively affect the inculcation of values in children, leading them to rely more on social media trends than worldly wisdom.
5) Inadequate social media regulations: Poorly enforced social media regulations in India fail to restrict cybercrimes, making children the most vulnerable and impressionable targets of the internet’s darker aspects.
b) Educational institutions hold significant responsibility in combating cyberbullying:
- Prevention through strict measures: Instituting stringent punishments and penalties to deter cyberbullying and all forms of bullying.
- Inculcating emotional intelligence: Promoting an environment of healthy criticism, dialogue, and expression can enhance children’s ability to articulate emotions, reducing unsophisticated bullying and unexpressed hurt.
- Targeted approaches: Implementing gender-sensitive or culture-sensitive interventions to foster inclusive thinking, addressing negative biases related to communal attitudes, casteism, or racism.
- Role of teachers: Teachers play a crucial role as they regularly interact with and observe students. They can provide context to teenagers’ and children’s social media-influenced worldviews.
- Raising awareness: Schools can educate children on digital etiquette through coursework and workshops, inviting child psychologists to interact with them. Parents of offenders should also be informed about online violence to shape children’s attitudes positively.
- Establishing grievance redressal mechanisms: Confidential reporting and redressal services at the school and college levels should be implemented.
c) Parents can shield their children from the effects of cyberbullying by:
- Building trust and compassion: Creating an atmosphere of trust within the family encourages children to share experiences rather than feeling overwhelmed.
- Spending quality time: Allocating sufficient quality time with children and engaging with their friend circle to be more involved in their lives.
- Monitoring social media activities: Keeping track of their child’s social media usage and instilling a disciplined schedule for its use.
- Raising awareness: Educating children about the dark side of social media and cyber vulnerability to prevent them from engaging in or supporting cyberbullying.
- Communication with teachers and other parents: Regularly communicating with teachers and parents of other children can enhance understanding of their own ward’s issues and broader concerns.
Children represent society’s assets and the world’s future. It is crucial to address cyberbullying in educational institutions, families, and society while ensuring that children retain their precious innocence without developing cynicism and distrust towards the world.