Cyberbullying has been brought to the media limelight recently after a young girl committed suicide after being sent bullying messages on the social media site ask.fm. Cyberbullying is defined as someone tormenting, threatening, harassing, or embarrassing another person on the internet or other technologies such as cell phones. It has real psychological and emotional effects on those targeted and is clearly a large issue with over 8 in 10 Lab participants stating that they feel that cyberbullying is a problem in their country of residence.
Shockingly a large majority of Lab participants claimed to have personally been or know someone who has been cyberbullied. Most believe that the punishment for cyberbullying should be more serious and that there should be stricter measures to control cyberbullying. Although many participants felt that cyberbullying is less serious issue than bullying face to face.
Most participants were concerned about the online content children are exposed to in their country of residence. The majority felt that children should spend less time on social media sites and that children are not aware of the risks of the actions they take online.
The majority of participants believe that parents are the most responsible for tackling/ preventing cyberbullying amongst children, followed by the social media sites themselves.
Reasons participants felt that parents are most responsible:
“The parents are the only ones who can control this. The schools/governments intervening in a person's life is unacceptable, nor is it acceptable for them to look through their personal chats, and that is the only way they can control it. Parents however need to allow their children to talk to them without fear of reprisal. That alone helps a lot in curbing bullying, as then they can both help the child, and in cases where the case is severe enough, and too big for them to handle, then they can go to a higher authority”Raghd, Lebanon
“Parents are idols for their kids” Wael Mark, UAE
“Parents should control their children, as controlling them does not come under the role of the government/school/social media” Sameer, Qatar
“Because they have to protect their children” Hamza, Algeria
“Because parents need to educate their children about the cons of using internet and tell them to what extent cyber bullying can affect them so that children will be careful in future” Sam, Kuwait
“Parents are directly responsible for their children's behavior” Mona, Amman
“Parents can control children by restricting them on social media sites” Saif,KSA
“Teaching children when to draw the line and speak to a responsible adult is a must for any parent. I have seen parents neglect advising their children on the negative aspects of life so the child cannot identify the direction their cyber interaction is taking them. How to identify a sensitive situation and how to walk away from it is very important. This can help avoid future problems” Ameera, UAE
“Awareness starts from home” Anon
In terms of the most effective measure in preventing cyberbullying, educating children about cyberbullying comes out on top, followed by more vigilant monitoring of content by social media sites and educating parents to spot signs of cyberbullying.
Suggestions by participants for the most effective way to prevent/tackle cyberbullying include:
“Campaigns, ads and more drastic punishments” Anon
“The Government should take strong measures to prevent cyber bullying. They should give harsh penalties to the people who are involved in this crime and parents should educate their children about the good and proper use of internet” Sam, Kuwait
“ Basically it is the responsibility of the parents, friends and near community. One major reason cyber bullying is such a problem is that the child feels isolated and unable to talk to anyone, and forced to deal with his/her problems alone. If the parents and near community communicated more with the child, and removed the barriers of prejudice, punishment, and prejudgement, and hence diluted the child's fear of reprisal and repercussions. The effects of such issues as cyber bullying will be greatly reduced” Raghd, Lebanon
“Parents need to be more aware of what their children are doing on social media, online interactive sites, etc. Most parents are not tech-savvy themselves hence they do not know how to educate their children on the Dos and Don’ts of the cyber world. Children and youngsters are exactly just that. They will do whatever they can get away with so parents need to be made more aware on the issues that can arise online and create a positive awareness with their children. I also feel local Goverment bodies should also play a stronger role. Many ignored sites do cause harm whether emotionally, physically and/or financially. Also, each individual should have the understanding to identify cyber bullying online and alert the authorities. Ignoring what doesn't affect you is just not right” Ameera, UAE
“Limiting access to chat services which aren't mentored or have age limits” Mel, KSA
“To prevent cyber bullying parents should be aware of what their kids are doing in the cyber world and they should limit activities” Pnx, UAE
Overall it is clear that lab participants feel that cyberbullying is a serious problem, many of whom have been personally affected by cyberbullying. Most hold parents responsible and believe the best way to tackle this problem is through educating children and monitoring their usage of social media sites.