The Herald (Harare)

1 March 2014

Zimbabwe: Dealing With Cyber-Bullying

Social networks such as Facebook , Twitter and Whatsapp are very popular with teenagers. They are widely used on a daily basis as a mean of communication and as a source of entertainment. They may even be used for education.

Although these social networks can be quite useful, some people use them to target other users and to bully them.

Cyber-bullying is when one uses the internet and social media networks to harass or degrade someone.

The cyber-bullies usually spread sensitive information, rumours and falsehoods via emails, texts, Facebook and Twitter posts, etc.

They may target vulnerable people by hacking into their personal accounts or by even spreading vicious rumours via a webpage in order to publicly humiliate them.

Mental effects of cyber-bullying

It can affect mental well-being by causing one to feel sad all the time , and may lead to depression in the long term.

It can result in stress that may end up affecting one's ability to concentrate on their schoolwork and other important things in life

It can reduce one's self-confidence and cause one to become more reserved and quiet

It can make one paranoid and unwilling to hang out with friends since they might feel that people are out to get them

It can ruin one's emotional stability

It can lead to self-doubt and poor self-image

Celebrities who have been Cyber-bullied

Cyber-bullying can affect anyone. Below are quotes from celebrities who have spoken about being bullied in cyber-space, and how they dealt with it.

Kendall Jenner

"If I see something really nasty on Twitter, I will usually delete it or block the person because I don't want to see that every day... Get to know me and then you can talk about me!"

Shay Mitchell

"I don't take any negative comment that I hear to heart. I take it in and let it pass because those are just other peoples' opinions. Regardless of what anyone else says, good or bad, it only matters how I feel and what I think."

How to tackle cyber-bullying

Block the cyber-bullies so that they cannot access your email account, Whatsapp account, or your Facebook page,etc

Report web-pages with abusive posts to the administrators of the website

Save screenshots of the cyber-bullying and show them to the police or an adult that you trust

Protect yourself by not forwarding sensitive images or information about yourself to other people. These can be easily circulated on social networks and can be used to bully you.

If you have been bullied, report the incident and try not to dwell on it. Participate in various activities that can uplift your mood and help you to move on. You may need support from family and friends or a counsellor.

Break the cycle of cyber-bullying by not forwarding horrible messages or awful images of another person.

Cyber-bullying Statistics

95% of social media-using teens who have witnessed cruel behaviour on social networking sites say they have seen others ignoring the mean behaviour; 55% witness this frequently (PEW Internet Research Center, FOSI, Cable in the Classroom)

84% have seen the people defend the person being harassed; 27% report seeing this frequently.

84% have seen the people tell cyber-bullies to stop bullying; 20% report seeing this frequently.

66% of teens who have witnessed online cruelty have also witnessed others joining; 21% say they have also joined in the harassment (PEW Internet Research Center, FOSI, Cable in the Classroom, 2011)

90% of social media-using teens who have witnessed online cruelty say they have ignored mean behaviour on social media; 35% have done this frequently (PEW Internet Research Center, FOSI, Cable in the Classroom, 2011)

80% say they have defended the victim; 25% have done so frequently. --seventeen.com/internetsafety101.org.

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