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28 Dec 2016

Being careful in the cyber world

SAMIR PARIKH, HT, 27 December 2016: Bullying is not restricted to physical violence but includes verbal or social abuse. 
All of these can have significant psychological impact on students. With children and adolescents getting greater access to technology, cyber-bullying is becoming a matter of concern. It includes threatening others through social networking sites, sending provocative messages and harassing others on the internet.
Excluding someone from an online page or group, invasion of privacy, posting sensitive personal information, impersonating someone with fake identities or accounts also amounts to emotional abuse. It is, therefore, important to educate the youth about these issues and ensure that they do not unknowingly harass their peers.
1 Encourage media literacy. Media has an enormous impact on children as they imbibe what they watch on television or read online. Media literacy is the ability to critically understand what is communicated through the media in order to make the right decisions. It can help students understand how media co-constructs reality, who it benefits and how to break the stereotypes propagated. Parents, on their part, should not restrict the use of internet by their children but allow them to take decisions on what to watch and what not to.
2 Parental involvement. Parents should talk to their children about the potential dangers of cyber-crime. Such an involvement not only ensures a reliable source of information for the child, but also creates a support system.
3 Ability to distinguish between fact and fiction. The media, particularly social media, can be extremely dangerous if children were to blindly trust what they see online. They need to be taught to separate the virtual world from reality. 
4 Make intelligent choices. It is important to explain to children that while the world is at their fingertips – what they choose to do with it is up to them. They need to be trained to be aware of the potential dangers associated with the use of the internet, and to think before they decide to disclose any personal information.
5 Recognise the cyber world. While it is good to embrace technology and use it to your advantage, always maintain a balance. Cyberbullies often conceal their identity, and such abuse can have major emotional consequences. 
Excluding someone from an online page or group, posting sensitive personal information can lead to emotional abuse. 
SAMIR PARIKH The author is director, mental health and behavioural sciences, Fortis Healthcar

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