It is undeniable that the internet has made the world a smaller place and life easier. The advantages cannot be denied, and the same goes for the disadvantages. The internet brought about dangers that are all too clear. Some people use it to bully, amongst other things. Bullying that is done through digital devices such as cell phones, computers and tablets is known as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying comes in many forms, and includes the sharing of negative, harmful, false or mean content about someone else, sending threats to someone, and people using fake profiles to intimidate or embarrass someone. When cyberbullying happens, the humiliating posts and the messages can be seen by thousands of people. This means there is no limit to who can view or partake in cyberbullying, and it is difficult to contain.
This form of bullying with the expansion of the digital sphere has become increasingly common. It is, therefore, important that people talk about it and educate themselves about it and its dangers. Although cyberbullying knows no age and it can and does happen to anyone, teenagers are at a greater risk, and they might not even know when it happens to them, or when they do it to the next person. The risk stems from the children’s lack of world experience, emotional maturity and wisdom. It is, therefore, the responsibility of parents and teachers to ensure that the internet becomes a safe place for our children to use. It is important that children are taught to never share personal information, to never discuss personal matters on the internet, and to never share their password and account details with anyone. Children must be taught explicitly about cyberbullying, and made aware of what’s wrong and right. Awareness is the key to prevent cyberbullying. Therefore, the children should from an early age be made aware so that they can always be vigilant. Moreover, the parents must keep an eye on their children’s internet usage. Children must also be taught to not be part of the problem. Cyberbullying, like any other form of bullying, can be seriously damaging as it can cause emotional and psychological stress. It has been reported that children who are bullied have a higher risk of depression and anxiety. A child who is bullied may show signs of feelings of sadness and loneliness; their sleeping and eating patterns may change, and they may also lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed.
Children who are victims of cyberbullying may struggle both at school and in their personal lives. They may perform poorly at school, miss, skip, or drop out of school, and their self-esteem may drop. They may also start consuming alcohol and drugs. In extreme cases, cyberbullying can lead to children being suicidal and engage in acts of self-harm. Cyberbullying is a serious problem and should be taken as such, not lightly. The impacts of cyberbullying are similar to those of traditional bullying. The main difference is that it is very difficult to avoid because it does not matter where your child is, they can feel like they are being attacked everywhere, even at home. It is also hard to notice because teachers and parents may not see it when it happens, so it is harder to detect. Even if someone deletes harmful content, chances are it’s still available in some form, such as in a screenshot. It is unfortunate that we do not have any law that governs cyberbullying in Namibia, which makes it difficult to tackle cyberbullying on an authoritative level. The best way to tackle cyberbullying at this point in time is on an individual level. If you are experiencing cyberbullying, speak to an adult you trust, be it a parent or a teacher. Social media also allows one to report harmful content and request for it to be removed. Moreover, you can unfriend or completely block other users to prevent them from contacting you. If you are being cyberbullied by your fellow learners, report it to your school. The effects of cyberbullying as mentioned above can take a toll on children, but these can be overcome. With proper help and support, they can come back from it, regain their confidence and become themselves again. Remember, anyone can be cyberbullied, and anyone can be a cyberbully, so we need to be mindful about what we share or say that may hurt others.