The increasing access to affordable data service has given rise to cyber-bullying. Across the world, young children, in particular teenagers, being the most vulnerable have been victims of this faceless evil. One in every three young people has reported being a victim of cyberbullying, according to a survey conducted by UNICEF in as many as 30 countries.
The poll by UNICEF has found that nearly one in five parents worldwide said their child had experienced cyberbullying at least once. And, according to a majority of respondents, social networks including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter are the most commonplace sites on which cyberbullying occurs.
The problem is particularly bad in India which had the highest rate of parents confirming instances of cyberbullying. In fact, India ranks at number 3 in the list of online bullying cases as per the survey conducted by Microsoft in 2012 in 25 countries.
A total of 37% of parents across India said their child was bullied online, 14% among them said the bullying occurred on a regular basis. Studies show cyberbullying can cause profound harm as it can quickly reach a wide audience, and can remain accessible online indefinitely, virtually following its victims online for life.
Online bullying or cyberbullying is distinct from the traditional form of bullying in the way that in cyberbullying the victim is not aware of the identity of the bully. Effects of bullying are wide and long-lasting as the effects of bullying are long-lasting as it affects the mental well being of the victim of cyberbullying.
There is no specific legislation in India which provides for the specific cyberbullying laws. However, there is a dire need to tackle the menace. Considering the fact that bullying is largely prevalent in schools – especially boarding schools, the HRD ministry has also launched anti-ragging committees in schools to punish students involved in the anti-bullying activities. The punishment can be up to rustication of the student in the rare of the rarest case. Similarly, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has also established anti-ragging committees in the UGC approved colleges and universities. Thus, the colleges and universities are mandated to follow the anti-ragging rules and if they fail to comply, UGC can forfeit their recognition. To stop bullying at the higher education level (colleges and university) “UGC Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Education Institutions, 2009” has been enacted.
While these steps are necessary along with proper legislation to address the extreme cases of bullying, in the absence of individual awareness, it is nearly impossible to tackle it. This is where the role of corporates and non-profits come in.
Children are very impressionable in nature. These incidents can cause permanent damage to their psyche. There is also a lot of stigma around this issue. By ensuring the availability of counselling to children and their guardians along with awareness campaigns, cyber-bullying can be addressed at a ground level, and the magnitude of the damage caused by this can be tackled.