Cyberbullying!

Imtipong Longkumer

Asst. Professor, St. Joseph’s College, Jakhama

 

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behaviour that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behaviour is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. The impacts of bullying can affect crucial aspects of everyday life, even after bullying has ended.

 

So, what are the long-term effects? We all know bullying is a negative behaviour, but are we actually aware of the lasting impacts it can have on the mental health of those who experience it? Those who experienced bullying went on to to develop social anxiety, depression and some even experienced suicidal thoughts. Interestingly, the stats on the impacts of cyberbullying were even higher, proving that our lives online have as much, if not more, of an impact on us than ever.

 

So what is cyber bullying? Cyberbullying or cyber harassment is a form of bullying or harassment using electronic means. Cyberbullying and Cyber harassment are also known as online bullying. It has become increasingly common, especially among youngsters Cyberbullying is when someone, typically, bully or harass others on social media. Harmful bullying behaviour can include posting rumours, threats, sexual remarks, a victims’ personal information, defaming people or pejorative labels (i.e., hate speech).Bullying or harassment can be identified by repeated behaviour and an intent to harm. Victims may have lower self-esteem, increased suicidal ideation, and a variety of emotional responses, including being scared, frustrated, angry, and depressed.

 

Some forms of online harassment are Cyberstalking and internet trolling. Cyber stalking is where the perpetrator uses electronic communications to stalk a victim. This is considered more dangerous than other forms of cyberbullying because it generally involves a credible threat to the victim’s safety. Cyberstalkers may send repeated messages intended to threaten or harass. They may encourage others to do the same, either explicitly or by impersonating their victim and asking others to contact them.

 

Internet trolls on the other hand intentionally try to provoke or offend others in order to elicit a reaction. Trolls and cyberbullies do not always have the same goals: while some trolls engage in cyberbullying, others may be engaged in comparatively harmless mischief. A troll may be disruptive either for their own amusement or because they are genuinely a combative person.

 

The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:

• Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat,whatsapp and Twitter.

• SMS (Short Message Service) also known as Text Message sent through devices.

• Instant Message (via devices, email provider services, apps, and social media messaging features)

• Email.

With the prevalence of social media and digital forums, comments, photos, posts, and content shared by individuals can often be viewed by strangers as well as acquaintances. The content an individual shares online – both their personal content as well as any negative, mean, or hurtful content – creates a kind of permanent public record of their views, activities, and behaviour. This public record can be thought of as an online reputation, which may be accessible to schools, employers, colleges, clubs, and others who may be researching an individual now or in the future. Cyberbullying can harm the online reputations of everyone involved – not just the person being bullied, but those doing the bullying or participating in it.

 

Many are also not aware of the fact that there are legal consequences to cyber bullying. According to the Indian IT law, Indian Penal Code, Cyber bullying comes under the purview of cybercrime. So it is important for us to understand the laws which govern the cyber world so as to protect ourselves from cybercrimes like cyber bullying but also for the perpetrators that hiding behind the monitors of their mobiles and computer screen and indulging in cyberbullying can lead to consequences.

 

The Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) was enacted to deal with e-commerce and electronic records, and also to punish e-commerce offences. Offences such as intimidation, insult, annoying, harassment, defamation, etc. in cyber space continued to be punishable only under the IPC till the 2008 amendment to the IT Act.

 

Section 66A in the amended IT Act deals with these crimes. Sending any message (through a computer or a communication device) that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; any communication which he/she knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing insult, annoyance and criminal intimidation comes under this section. This crime, under the current IT/Cyber/Criminal laws in India is punishable up to three years with a fine.

 

But while laws and regulation has its own place in society but what about the moral obligations that we need to have towards others and even to ourselves. Even if the person were to escape the legal penalties, the question is what happens to the persons own moral standards because as human beings are born with a conscience.

 

For any problem to be dealt with we must first recognise it as a problem.