The Internet is a wonderful tool that allows us to communicate, build relationships, gain and share knowledge and express ourselves. However, in recent years we have seen an increase in internet related crime, especially those targeting women and children. In a recent study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, it was found that cyberbullying is now a ‘serious public health problem’ with 7-15% of teenagers experiencing online abuse. The anonymity provided by the internet has fueled the spread of cybercrimes, particularly the online variants of offline crime such as cyber bullying.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services defines cyberbullying as “bullying that takes place using electronic technology’. In another definition by stopcyberbullying.org it is explained as “when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.” According to the above definition, cyberbullying is more relevant to minors or children and when adults get involved, it becomes cyber-harassment or cyberstalking, not cyberbullying.
Children could become victims of cyberbullying through emails, text messages and via social media sites. A more comprehensive classification of cyberbullying attacks is as follows.
Table 1: Types of cyberbullying (Based on http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/how_it_works/index.html)
There are many methods to prevent cyberbullying. Described below are some of the methods that can be used to respond to and prevent cyberbullying.
However, these are only cases the FBI is aware of.
Table 2: Methods of preventing and responding to cyberbullying (Based on Hinduja & Patchin, 2012)
Being bullied whether online or offline is not a pleasant experience. Cyberbullying intensities the feeling of helplessness and sense of security because bullies can easily hide their online identities. Children are specially at risk because cyberbullying can lead to depression, anxiety and affect self -esteem in the victim. Therefore, when using the internet be mindful about your own safety and respect the privacy, human dignity and freedom of others.
Dr. Hemamali Tennakoon
Research and Policy Development Specialist, Sri Lanka CERT|CC