In a time where cyberbullying is spreading, how will enforcing regulations impact it, and how will it influence schools and parenting styles?
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a nursery rhyme almost all of us heard growing up. Yet, this statement has been at fault in several situations.
“Bullying”, a term that can be defined as the act of tormenting others who may be weak, is a way of harming individuals through words. With the advancement of technology, old-school bullying has evolved into a new form called cyberbullying. Its literal meaning shares the same concept of bullying, but its twist is that it takes place in cyberspace. The issue of cyberbullying has turned into such a hot topic to the extent where laws have been set in several places around the world to apply sanctions on bullies.
The UAE is witnessing a great rise in the use of social media. Naturally, not everyone is using social media positively. As an active person on Twitter, it has come to my attention that some individuals abuse it. I have come across a lot of people tweeting pictures and videos of others to make fun of their appearance and behaviors. Additionally, some accounts have been created for the sole purpose of mocking others. Sadly, when people undertake such acts, they usually deem it to be harmless; however, these acts have serious effects on the people targeted in such posts. Though old-school bullying is still a ubiquitous issue, it is important to acknowledge cyberbullying as well. Not only will the laws discourage future bullies from coming out, they can help in highlighting its significance.
For instance, applying laws can be educational. Parry Aftab, a lawyer specialized in Internet safety, stated that cyberbullying is the legal term used when the target of abuse are minors, while when the target are adults the legal term is cyber harassment. Since minors are the targets of this phenomenon, it only makes sense for schools to discuss cyberbullying. With law enforcement, the matter will be taken more seriously and a decline in cyberbullying is more likely to happen. It is vital for schools to talk to students and educate them about the impact words can have on others.
Additionally, laws can educate parents on an issue they probably did not suffer from when growing up. The laws can push parents into monitoring their children’s online activity. A survey conducted by i-SAFE America found that though 93% of parents felt they knew about the websites their child was surfing online, 41% of children between the fifth to twelfth grades said they do not share their online activities with their parents.
Moreover, another survey conducted by the same establishment found that more than half of the students surveyed (52%) preferred to surf the Internet alone. Given these numbers, laws against cyberbullying can educate children about the effects of harassing others and alert parents to the importance of monitoring their child’s online behavior.
Furthermore, cyberbullying victims’ mental and physical stability can add to the equation. With traditional forms of bullying, it usually takes place on the school’s campus, meaning that the child’s feeling of not being safe at school can disappear the moment they go back to their households. Conversely, with our excessive use of technology, the child is prone to be tormented not only during school hours, but at home as well. This way, the victim is at a constant risk of being bullied all day long.
Likewise, with the constant improvement in technology, adolescents now have more vicious ways to exude their negative energy. Keeping that in mind, the victim can reach a point where they no longer can tolerate the malicious behavior targeted at them which will then make them resort to harming themselves. To achieve a child’s happiness, it is crucial to provide a safe environment and a peaceful state of mind.
The laws can send out a message that everyone is responsible for their online identity. Nevertheless, laws are not the only way to tackle the significance of the matter. Schools can lend a helping hand by creating anti-bullying programs. The government of the UAE has succeeded in applying sanctions to anyone who harasses anyone whether physically or through social media. However, I believe that initiating an official campaign to raise awareness and endorse cyber safety is much needed now.
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