Access to digital technologies has increased manifold in the recent past. A child as young as a first grader knows how to scroll, search and upload any kind of content - such is the magnanimity of the internet. However, every coin has a flip side, and so does the internet. Because of the ubiquity of social media and online communication, a new type of harassment has emerged - cyberbullying! Cyberbullying is a form of bullying in which one or more people use digital technologies to purposefully and repeatedly damage another person. It is more challenging than ever for youngsters to keep themselves safe from malevolent online bullies.
We are living in a world where information is primarily stored digitally. There is a dire need to create a safe online environment for everyone, especially children who can easily fall prey to online predators. Undoubtedly, the need to be cautious before sharing personal details on social media platforms is stronger than ever. The high rate of cyberbullying in India is partially due to a paucity of knowledge and instruction regarding online safety.
Combating cyberbullying in India
Despite significant programs by the Indian government to combat cyberbullying, plenty can still be done to protect Indian children.
Raising awareness of the issue and ensuring that the stakeholders - parents and schools have the information they need to shield the youth from online predators
Educating those addressing cyberbullying issues to handle it carefully and through due process
Ensuring that the judicial system is strong enough to handle cases efficiently.
Empowering Schools as Cyberbullying Safeguards
To address cyberbullying in educational settings, a complex strategy that includes policies, instructional interventions, and intervention techniques is required:
Rules and processes - Schools can create unambiguous rules that define cyberbullying, its consequences, and how to report it. Educational campaigns, parent participation, and the use of technology tools can be intervention approaches to monitor and stop cyberbullying.
Programs promoting the same use of online media - Schools should prioritize initiatives to educate students about responsible media usage and effective prevention strategies. Numerous programs have emerged to tackle this concern, such as i-SAFE (1998), the Cyberbullying Internet Safety Program by SAFE Inc. (1998), the Cyberbullying Prevention Curriculum developed by Kowalski and Agatson (2008, 2009), and "Let's Unite Against Cyberbullying" presented by Childnet International (2007). Typically, these programs incorporate multimedia components like videos or webisodes that address cyberbullying and a series of structured lessons designed to facilitate student discussions on cyberbullying issues. These lessons equip students with the knowledge to prevent cyberbullying and guide them in responding to cyberbullying incidents effectively.
Curriculum - By integrating digital citizenship into the curriculum, schools can apprise the students about the skills necessary to navigate the online world responsibly. Workshops, seminars and interactive sessions are of paramount importance. It could help them realize the impact of their online actions. These programs can underscore the significance of maintaining respectful communication, understanding the consequences of cyberbullying, and promoting ethical technology usage.
Response systems - Schools must use steadfast methods to intervene in the event of cyberbullying. Both the victim and offenders should be extended emotional support through counselling sessions. It could enable them to comprehend the repercussions of their conduct. The involvement of parents is crucial; schools can initiate open dialogues and discussions. Workshops for parents can also be organized to educate parents -which will enable them to guide their children’s online behavior. Technological tools can help the early detection and prevention of cyber bullying, content filtering, monitoring software, and anonymous reporting systems.
School ecosystems against cyberbullying - Addressing cyber bullying requires a supportive school environment. Teachers and staff should receive training on how to see the telltale symptoms and initiate the proper course of action. Peer support programs and the promotion of an inclusive culture can aid in lowering the occurrence of these actions.
In conclusion, tackling cyberbullying in our schools is a complex task, but it's crucial. As the digital world keeps growing, we need to make sure our students know how to stay safe online. It's not just about technology; it's about caring for our kids and creating a kind online community. Together, we can protect young people from cyberbullying and make the internet a safer place for everyone. Schools cannot work in isolation. Collaboration with all the stake holders such as parents, law enforcement and community organizations is vital. While schools can guide, parents should keep a check and law enforcement agencies should provide guidance and grievance redressal on priority.