by Vicky Botha
We are all aware of the fact that bullying is a major issue in our society, however, in today's day and age the use of technology has made bullying an even more prevalent occurence which could affect your child.
So what makes cyber bullying different? One of the main differences is that cyber bullying is uncensored and can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and reach children even when they are alone. Through the use of technology, the offender can remain anonymous and it can be distributed quicky to a very wide audience.
What is Cyber Bullying?
Cyber bullying is a form of bullying. It is bullying that occurs through the use of electronic technology such as cellphones, computers and tablets as well as communication tools such as various forms of social media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp, Mxit and others.
Have you ever started a fake profile or pretended to be someone else on social media? Sent nasty text messages or emails? Spread rumours about someone? Have you ever posted malicious messages or photos on social media?
If you answered YES to any of the above questions - be warned! You could potentially be participating in cyber bullying. Or if any of the above has ever been done to you, you could be a victim of cyber bullying.
Signs to look out for:
It is important for parents and teachers to know the signs and to look out for when:
1. A child is a victim of cyber bullying includes:
- Has a low self-esteem;
- Unwillingness to attend school;
- Poor school performance;
- Drug & alcohol abuse;
- Drastically changes internet use habits;
- Withdrawal from normal interaction with family and friends.
2. A child is a cyber bully includes:
- Feels the need to respond to text messages and will break family rules to do so;
- Spends an inordinate amount of time engaged in internet activity;
- Sneaks online communication late at night (check history).
What to do if I or a family member is a victim of cyber bullying?
If the cyber bullying has reached a point where it can no longer be dealth with in an "orderly" fashion, you may consider the following options:
- School Governing Body: The sanctions would depend on the school's governing body. It is the school's responsibility as your first port of call to actively assist you.
- Legal Resource: Consulting an attorney who will be able to advise you fully on your options, two of them being instituting a civil action against the bully for damages suffered or applying to the Court for a Protection Order in terms of the Protection from Harrassment Act, Act 17 of 2011
- Private Investigator: A reputable private investigator may be appointed in instances where, for example, the true identity of the bully is unknown.
- South African Police Service: This applies when the cyber bullying culminates into physical threates, violence, stalking, emotional assault and blackmail. Criminal charges may be laid against the bully.
According to a 2012 report from the University of South Africa, 34.4% of students between the ages of 12 and 24, had been bullied in the past two years.
Do not let your child become part of these statistics.