There was a time when I lived in South Carolina at often used Facebook and Twitter to voice my personal updates and stories. I wrote about an encounter with a racist guy, so I posted about him on my account. As the hours passed by, my family and a few close friends started calling me up and asked (read: commanded) that I take the post down. My uncle was so paranoid that he was sure I would get arrested about writing about him.
I brushed off saying, social networks are the ONE place no one takes you seriously. It's a web application, secured with a password. My attempts to be myself failed and I eventually took the post down.
As the years grew, I saw Facebook and Twitter being taken seriously. As a marketer, there was no thrill of social media. I knew how it worked, who ran the accounts (another chai hogger like me) and how to get rid of trolls. But then, technology got cheap and UX designers made sure everyone could use their applications. And everyone did...
I tweeted that I want to give my dog up for adoption, as I was moving to the US and his breed couldn't fly. And I don't trust the oceans enough to keep my baby safe for three-six months. We asked my in-laws, but they couldn't keep the dog because everyone is too old to run around with him. But I was trolled, that I was a pathetic human being for abandoning my dog, I have no heart, and didn't deserve him. This went on hour an hour. Who was trolling me? One of BJP's twitter handles. Now what does have a government official of a ruling political party have to do with my dog?
Things are like happen everyday minute. From celebrities, girls of various body sizes and skin tons, the LGBTQ community, girls who wear a Hijab, President Donald Trump's Son or Hilary herself, no one has been spared from the critics comments. I once saw a Julia Roberts interview, "I am not active on social media, because I think people get too mean to each other" She was right. Back home in India, an award winning gay Indian filmmaker, Karan Johar, is greeted with at least 200 hate messages on Twitter every morning.
Did you know that bullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider committing suicide? In September 2013, a 12 year old Rebecca Ann Sedwickgirl from Florida jumped to her death at an old cement facility. We're talking about 12 and 16 year olds.
Who is responsible and are they serving time? Nope. In majority of the cases the police cannot track down these users. Accounts get deactivated, and since most of them are accounts with cliched and fake names, hence there remains no way to get any solid evidence. In August 2013, Hannah Smith in Leicestershire, UK hanged herself after being harassed for a while. The police found no strong evidence in her case either.
We have all the money to build walls, and some of the most brilliant brains who've even built the dark internet. But there is no way that we track a cyber bully? Until there is a technology break through, as parents, friends, neighbors, relatives, this is on us to spot the early symptoms of children being abused in school or on the internet.
How to Identify If Your Child Is Being Bullied:
- Please listen to children around you and take a moment to reflect on the times they are not themselves.
- Are they suddenly wearing long sleeves or layering up when it's not cold? Self harm is a phase of depression which acts as the stepping stone to committing suicide. There is also a possibility that the kid has been physically harmed by someone else.
- Are they suddenly too emotional and clingy around you?
- Frequent head aches, indigestion for no reason and stomach ache are the first warning signs of a stressful brain.
- They are quite most of the time but the built up range unleashes with aggression (like throwing things around the house (at someone or not), picking up the knife to hurt someone)
- The child suddenly stops seeing his or her close friends and doesn't give any explanation as to why.
- Skips meals or bing eats.
- He or She is suddenly scared of one person or place.
- He or she starts being gradually being a bully to younger siblings. Knowing they posses the same power makes them feel less threatened.
- Grades begin to drop with no obvious patterns.
What to do if a child is being bullied?
- Believe him or her even though you don't have to act immediately.
- Hear them out, COMPLETELY. Parents often assume where they shouldn't and end up missing out on the real story.
- It's common, doesn't mean it should be allowed. DO NOT in any circumstances tell your child to "live with it" as "it happens to everyone". Make them understand that they are not alone but what's happening with him/her and the others is not right.
- Take time off from work and spend quality time with them.
- According to character.org, asking direct question also helps you analyze their repose.
- If the child cannot cope up, call a professional therapist, but don't make this seem like something they have to do. Pick a young therapist who your child can resonate with and can talk the millennial talk.
- Speak to your child's best friends and investigate if, when and how did he/she change their relationship with them.
If you want to know more about cyber bullying and want to help, here are a few organizations you can be a part of. Also check out local Meet Ups for similar causes or better yet, start one!