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The Harsh Reality of Cyberbullying and How to Deal with it

 

With the advent of the digital era more and more users have resorted to using social media platforms. Social Media and other Internet platforms when used wisely promote a constructive environment through which people can communicate across the globe. However, along with the positives come the negatives of these platforms too: Cyberbullying. 

Cyberbullying refers to bullying or harassment of any kind inflicted through any digital media such as computers, mobile phones and involves the usage of social media platforms, instant messengers or chat rooms. Usually, it consists of using hurtful words, making derogatory comments, threatening or using fake information.

Cyberbullying in India

  • India has the highest amount of cyberbullying in the Asia-Pacific Region.
  • According to a recent report by the National Crime Records Bureau, total cases of cybercrimes have increased by 25% from 2017 to 2018. Furthermore, cases of cyberstalking and cyberbullying of women and children increased by 36% from 2017 to 2018.
  • In 2018, a total of 2.37 lakh cases of cyberbullying, threats and stalking were registered.
  • Cases of threats and blackmailing have fallen by 28.3% largely due to underreporting.

Due to the unawareness surrounding cyberbullying, victims tend to avoid reporting cases. This causes them to succumb to cyberbullying thereby affecting their mental and emotional health, while offenders continue to get away with such acts.

How Cyberbullying affects Mental Health? 

  • Anxiety- Children and Adults who have been victims of cyberbullying experience increased social anxiety due to how they are perceived or will be perceived among peer groups. In situations of blackmail, harassment and threats, the anxiety levels of a victim can drastically increase due to the fear of humiliation and public shaming.
  • Depression- A recent study linked cyberbullying to increased depression and PTSD symptoms. Depression can be triggered by online humiliation, cyberstalking, threatening and harassment. Long-term depression in such cases can increase the risk of suicidal ideation among victims.
  • Stress- Another study linked Cyberbullying with increased perceived stress among students in high schools. The study further found a correlation between perceived stress levels and the perpetration of cyberbullying among individuals. In a situation of cyberbullying, the victim is under a constant threat of being exposed and humiliated which causes stress levels to rise.
  • Low Self-Esteem- Cyberbullying victims are more likely to struggle with self-esteem due to involuntary revelation of personal information which causes public humiliation and shaming. A study conducted on the relationship between cyberbullying and self-esteem found that both victims, as well as offenders, had significantly lower levels of self-esteem than those who had little to no experience of cyberbullying.

Common Signs to look for: 

  • Feelings of Insecurity
  • Negative-Self Talk
  • Fear of Embarrassment
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty Trusting others
  • Withdrawal from Social Interaction
  • A sudden change of mood
  • Irritability
  • Excessive Sadness
  • Mental Breakdowns
  • Feelings of Hopelessness
  • Loss of Interest
  • Frustration
  • Substance Abuse

Dealing with Cyberbullying 

The effects of cyberbullying can be devastating for a person’s mental, emotional and social wellbeing. It can make a victim feel helpless and trapped. However, it is crucial to take action against cyberbullying and seek professional help for it. There are certain laws that the government has provided against cyberbullying: 

Laws of Cyberbullying in India

  • The Indian Penal Code, 1860
  • Section 354A- Sexual Harassment
  • Section 354D- Stalking
  • Section 499- Defamation
  • Section 507- Criminal intimidation by Anonymous Communication
  • Section 509- Word, Gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman
  • Information Technology Act, 2000- Harassment
  • A complaint can be filed by the victim or his/her family members to the nearest police station where the cyber-crime cell further investigates the matter and takes the necessary course of action.

Seeking Professional Help 

Cyberbullying can take various forms from harassment, cyberstalking, dissing, blackmailing to catfishing and even framing. Such forms of cyberbullying are capable of significantly damaging one’s reputation along with one’s emotional and mental well-being. It’s helpful to keep a check on your stress levels and seek professional help when required to cope with emotional and mental distress. 

Remember, Cyberbullying and mental health are closely related. Hence, any form of bullying is done when a person wants to feel good about himself/herself by putting others down. Therefore, it is imperative to maintain optimal mental and emotional wellbeing in such times to act in a wise and timely manner.

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