Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Cyber-Bullying in schools

A few days back when I checked a popular of  site on the net dealing with the process of asking questions and  receiving answers, I was particularly astounded to see the kind of questions and answers being exchanged.Some of the questions and answers were in bad taste, and they referred to a particular girl studying in another section. This was an exchange that was initiated by a student of grade twelve whose only objective seemed to be bragging about his sexual exploits. It seemed as if this student wanted to flaunt his masculinity by describing lurid details about his association with certain female students of another class, which I doubt, were founded on an iota of truth! What concerned me however was that this girl’s character was being sullied by this so called Casanova who who wanted to wreck the integrity and character of a girl who might in reality have had nothing to do with him! The posts, if read by this innocent girl would have devastated her completely! I referred this post to the school’s counselor with the result that the objectionable material was removed by this Casanova immediately!
What most students and professionals don’t realize is that  prospective colleges only need to Google the names of prospective candidates and the same goes for future employers. An important lesson for all is to be careful about what is posted on the social net-working sites. While an unguarded comment might lose you the opportunity of getting an admission in a college of your choice, it could also compromise your chances of getting an employment. Most employers do troll the net to get a look into the possible qualities of a future employee. Many of our young students are unfortunately unguarded about the comments they post on the networking sites, carried by the moment, and the spur of the moment to post the most nasty of comments. What makes such networking sites ever more dangerous is the fact that they are accessible to all! Anyone can see them, the teachers and future employees including. True chivalry (archaic though the term may be) lies in praising women and not is destroying their characters piece meal!

Cyber-Bullying in many cases takes up the teasing and demeaning of fellow students to another level, a level where others can see the diatribe taking place. In many cases Cyber Bullying might lead to the vilification of character, character assassination and besmirching of character done just on the spur of the moment, without thinking of the far-reaching consequences for the victim. What makes the whole thing worse is that others who are members of the chat-room or group join in adding to the slug fest of unsavory remarks! The bullying that took place in the class or school now takes place in Cyber-Space and is in most cases a free for all since it is not affected by the presence of teachers or any other adults. Cyber-Bullying is not limited to males only; females too can become the instigators of it . Girls  can sometimes unleash the most  distasteful comments on their classmates.

While many  young people dismiss such distasteful comments with a smile and a laugh, they don’t realize that such comments might affect their marital life , and job prospects in the long run! Many of our young students don’t realize that the comments made by them on the spur of the moment might go against them in the long run. In times when such comments are accessible to all who have access to sites on the internet, it makes sense to be guarded about what you post. While no doubt many sites gain hits based on the type of comments that are posted on their sites, the more the scandalous, the more the popularity, what they don’t understand is that such comments might have a negative psychological impact on the innocent person whose character is being torn to pieces! And this, in itself  forces us to think about the impact such comments might have on their mental health. Enter the concept of Cyber-Bullying!

Many popular social networking sites allow the posting of comments on their sites. These comments which are scurrilous and in bad taste might have the effect of  denigrating and destroying the self -esteem of the victim. One of the students that I once taught was devastated by the comments that a boy whom she barely knew, had posted on the social networking site. The boy claimed that he was her boy friend, and he described in graphical detail, the so called exploits that he had shared with her. The boy, a student of grade ten had boasted that she was his girl and warned anyone to dare befriending her as this would lead to certain consequences! For students studying in schools it is important that certain liberties of expression need to be modulated and moderated. In the case that I mentioned above, the girl was devastated by the comments posted by a boy she barely knew. The boy studied in different school!
The problem of Cyber-Bullying is however not just about boys posting objectionable material about girls whom they are not able to win over, it is also about boys posting objectionable material about some of the less popular boys studying in their own class, or it is about girls posting objectionable material about the girls who study in their own class. While bullying has its roots in class, especially dealing with those who don’t foot the line, or are different, it has a basis in fact that those who don’t conform to popular trend are subject to derision in class. Students who look different are targets of such attacks in class and these attacks might spill over on to the comments that are posted about them on the internet. Sometimes these attacks on social networking sites are so caustic, derogatory and vitriolic that the victims are driven to commit suicide! More often than not, these attacks target appearances, intelligence, and those students with strong moral values, those who are not ready to experiment with sex, drugs, or other popular and accepted trends!

Unfortunately what makes Cyber Bullying even more traumatic is the fact that comments posted on social networking sites are accessible to all. In many cases, innocent victims might be viewed as consenting participants in an orgy that never took place, or they are viewed as willing participants in a daring escapade. How do you view the feelings of a student who didn’t attend a party which involved drugs and alcohol and yet was tagged as one of the members of the party? While characters are made painstakingly, it takes a few irresponsible comments to destroy it in seconds. While no doubt the victim might be innocent of the exploits mentioned, he or she might lose integrity in the sight of his or her parents! The loss of respect caused by the lose and irresponsible comments made by a classmate or classmates might cause the victim to lose his or her character in the eyes of parents, siblings, friends and social circles.  It is exactly these comments that drive victims to commit suicide!
The only solution to Cyber-Bullying lies in the pro-active role of teachers counselors and parents. The society at large bears a huge responsibility in raising concerns about the impact of cyber-bullying. Schools can do a lot to sensitize students about the impact of Cyber Bulling. Teachers have their work cut out for them, they should be more accessible to their students so that their students are able to communicate their concerns about such cases of Cyber Bullying. Parents on the other hand should be on the same level with their children, being able to communicate with them and be able to somehow show some interest and awareness about the kind of friends that their children have on social networking sites. The society at large needs to be aware of the problem and act in a way that frowns upon the very idea of Cyber-Bullying! The Cyber Crime law enforcers should maintain constant accessibility with students studying in schools. They should conduct frequent workshops in schools so that aggrieved victims are able to contact relevant departments in cases of Cyber Bullying!   A seemingly innocent statement that a particular student “is not cool” or that a particular student “is not a party animal” or for that effect that a fellow student is “fact” might have serious implications for the victim. Many students are forced to do things that are inappropriate just because they don’t attend rave parties, or are not promiscuous enough! Schools have a major role in coming to the protection of students who are bullied on social networking sites and in disciplining those who post objectionable comments. Social networking sites need to be moderated in such cases too. One of the most popular social networking sites allow the hosting of   a confessions  group which often contain the most sordid details as confessed by the perpetrators of a crime. No doubt, these confessions are false and fictitious, meant to boost the popularity of the confessor, the fact remains that they have an adverse impact on the victim. Punishments should be more stringent for those who post adverse comments on social networking sites, and there should be grievance  alleviation forums in the schools and the society at large. Cyber-Bullying is a disturbing trend in today’s times and it needs to be addressed more seriously at all levels. We have all heard of students committing suicide because they were bullied on such sites. Promising and intelligent students have been so adversely affected that their academic performance has been known to have dropped drastically.

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