By Dr Noshina Saleem
With the advent of information and communication technologies (ICTs) bulling has expanded its boundaries from playgrounds to retiring rooms. Bullying occurs via social networking sites, instant messages, emails, websites, blogs, chat room, phone calls, or text messages. Mostly ICTs are used as a weapon by the youth for wreaking and abusing friends, fellow students and peers. The phenomenon of bullying has transformed into a new form called cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying is characterised by repeated and deliberated intent to harm someone who is mentally, physically or technologically weak or unable to defend such behavior. Prominent factors such as diverse schooling culture, lack of elder’s supervision and absence of counter bullying programs are the main causes of bullying. Some studies found that cyber-bullying is related with age factor, and it diminishes with the increase in age. Common practices of cyber bullying are:
Flaming (sending or posting angry/annoying messages), online harassment (sending, posting sexual, nude, obscene text, picture or video), stalking (chasing online anonymously to annoy, alarm or threaten), denigration (spreading rumors, or fake picture or videos),outing and trickery(hacking, exposing, and manipulating private information of others),social exclusion(ignoring or excluding one from an online group or circle) andhappy slapping (filming while slapping someone for the purpose of posting online).
In unconcealed bullying identity is not concealed, victims know the perpetrator, whereas perpetrator remains anonymous to the victims in covert bullying. There are several international and national studies on traditional and cyber bulling. Pakistan is in those countries where information and communication technologies have penetrated rapidly especially among the youth. The traditional notion of parental interference is declining and individual freedom and individual privacy even within homes is becoming a dominant notion. On the other hand due to lack of proper parental guidance sometimes young people use this technology for negative purposes to inflict their peers sometime causes the psycho-social implications, and can be the cause of depression, social exclusion, anxiety, lowering of self-esteem, unwell feeling of cyber-bullying among youth. Some studies show that boys are more inclined towards overt bullying, whereas girls are more involved in covert bullying. Cyber bulling is distinguished from cyber-teasing- a behavior that is not intended to hurt, not necessarily repetitive, and exercised on equal power relationship- or cyber-arguing- a behavior though intended to hurt, but not necessarily repetitive, and performed at equal power-relationship-, or cyber-harassment by strangers because it is exercised in the context of existing social groups.
In the month of September 2014, police arrested few persons including a women who were involved in kidnapping of people by using social media. During interrogation they admitted that the women in their gang firstmade their target friends on social websites, exchanged cell numbers and invited them in her house then they blackmailed them. One member of that gang was the son of a policeman. In another incident a 14-year-old child was kidnapped in Karachi by a man who developed friendship on the internet and kidnapped him for ransoms. Several similar incidents have been reported. Where women are victimized by picture editing. Recently a similar case is registered in Lahore, when a gang blackmailed young lady doctors by changing their pictures and demanding money, however police arrested the gang.
On the other hand safety measurescould be positive parental behavior, friends’ protectionfrom being as a target of bullies,student councilors at school, college and university,give confidence to youth as they are unable to share their personal problems with others,parents must keep an eye on activates of their children, the need to minimize the communication gap between parents and children.
Teachers should also play their healthy role to teach the moralities, norms, and values other than syllabus contents.Media, both electronic and broadcast, should launch public awareness campaigns regarding moralities, ethics, norms and values of Islamic and Pakistani society instead of following or coping foreign contents.Religious scholars can play their contribution to guide youth impressively.Another way can be to not share personal email and phone number with unknown people on social media. Always update privacy check systems. If someone blackmails you,immediately inform family, police or relevant security agencies and all active user must launch a campaign and guide others how to get avoid cybercrimes.
Recently the National Assembly Standing Committee on Information and Technology has passed the Cybercrime Bill 2015 to prevent the surge in cybercrime in the country as terrorists are using information technology to further their activities in the country. Cyber bullies also provoke provincialisms, sectarianism, group divisions, linguistic and racial discrimination, extremism, and spreading of incorrect information through various forms of media can be cause severe various kinds of cyber. Let’s see how the new law helps the country to address this challenge.
(The author is in-charge director and assistant professor in the Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab, Lahore. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)