Cyber bullying is a big problem around the world.
According to Statistic Brain, 84.2 per cent of students in the US reported being bullied on Facebook, followed by 23.4 per cent on Instagram and 21.4 percent on Twitter. A more recent report by New York Post revealed that cyber bullying cases soared by some 351 per cent in just two years.
What about here in Singapore? Surely things aren’t that bad.
Well, according to the Media Literacy Council, about three in 10 school children and youths here experienced cyber bullying. In May last year, a study by Kingmaker Consultancy further reported in The Straits Times revealed that students between the ages of 13 and 15 experienced an increase of up to 7 percentage points in online bullying compared to 2013.
In a separate survey of 3,800 secondary and 1,800 upper primary school students by TOUCH Cyber Wellness in 2015, 33 per cent of the secondary students reported that they were cyber bullied, while 25 per cent admitted bullying someone online. 22 per cent of the primary school students had experienced cyber bullying – increase of 4 per cent compared to 2014.
A form of online harassment, cyber bullying may take the form of text messages, nasty emails, social media posts, Internet forum posts, or blog posts. Often, cyber bullying is done with the intention of hurting, damaging, humiliating or defaming a person or organisation.
Unlike physical bullying though, many cyber bullies are often oblivious to the fact that they are making others feel uncomfortable by their online actions. And that may include you and me.
Here are eight forms of cyber bullying which you’re probably unaware of.
#1 The Political-Religious Zealot
By now, you’re probably aware that the recent US elections has polarised the world. Online assaults come thick and heavy, with both liberals and conservatives slinging mud at each other.
Here in Singapore, it isn’t uncommon for people to label each other for their political or religious views. Often, we may also get swept away by the heat of emotionally charged arguments for or against a position, even when we do not fully understand the real issues.
“Oh that guy is a fundie! Let’s block him from our conversations.”
“That woman is pro-abortion. She must be evil!”
While we are entitled to our own beliefs, we need to be mindful of how we label others who may disagree with our values.
Having a civil argument is fine. Degenerating into insults and name calling isn’t.
#2 The Teaser Taser
“It’s only a joke lah! She will not be offended.”
Well, think again.
According to a study by the University of British Columbia, 95 percent of the youths who perpetuated a cyber bullying action thought that what happened online was merely a joke. Only about five percent actually meant to harm someone!
So how do you avoid turning humour into harassment?
- Adopt Stephen Covey’s habit of seeking first to understand the other person.
- Ask yourself how you’d feel if you were the subject of the same joke.
- Avoid making online jokes at another person’s expense.
- Consider if the remarks could possibly be perceived in a different, negative way.
#3 The Online Outer
In a world of smart phones, it isn’t uncommon for extraordinary incidents to be captured on camera. These could be useful as evidence in criminal cases, road accidents, or to resolve disputes between two parties.
However, the smartphone camera may also be a double-edged sword. This is especially so when the prized video clip or photo is publicly shared and “spiced-up” for the purpose of gaining greater likes, comments and shares online (what we call social currency).
We have seen this happen several years ago when photos and videos of NSFs taking up the “reserved seats” on MRT trains were freely circulated.
To prevent yourself from becoming a negative citizen reporter, consider the other person’s point of view and think about how you would react if you were the one being photographed and video-ed. Consider the acronym THINK:
- T – Is it True?
- H – Is it Helpful?
- I – Is it Inspiring?
- N – Is it Necessary?
- K – Is it Kind?
#4 The Serial Sharer
On Facebook, sharing may sometimes be caring.
We share important news such as train breakdowns, government announcements, and motivating speeches so that our friends and fans can benefit from the information.
However, such behaviours may sometimes fan the flames of cyber bullying.
As a general rule, we should try not to share a piece of information if we know that it may result in defaming or character assassinating another person. If a crime or a misdemeanour has been committed, let the Court of Law take its course.
Read this guide by Facebook, MediaSmart and the Media Literacy Council to learn more about sharing conscientiously.
#5 The Combative Commenter
Have you ever experienced folks who love to engage in discourse on your Facebook wall?
I am sure you do. In fact, we often welcome comments as they give us a nice psychological boost and keep things interesting.
However, we need to be mindful about not letting comments degenerate into a catfight or a slugfest. It is amazing how an online comment spat between friends could destroy real life relationships.
Strangers may also end up tearing each other up on social media even though they are truly meek, well-mannered and mild in real life.
Let us not allow the need to get the last word in destroy our relationships. If we truly care about an issue, perhaps we could take the issue offline and engage in a constructive face-to-face conversation.
#6 The Prince of Parody
Like the rest of you, I love humour and parodies. They can be extremely zany, like this epic SGAG commentary on BBC’s “Iguana versus Snake” documentary.
However, parodies may also go the other way if they are insensitively made, and do not consider how the protagonists may feel. Especially if they have not said or done anything negative against the parties doing so.
As a general rule, we should avoid making parodies involving children or minors. People at a social or economic disadvantage should also not be made fun of.
#7 The Looks Police
Many of us are tickled by how people look. Countless memes have been created around the themes of plastic surgery and the amazing before-and-after transformation of the parties involved.
Unfortunately, such images may also be misused, such as the meme on how the Asian parents of three kids looked different after plastic surgery.
Beyond cosmetic surgery treatments, I’ve also noticed how people tend to label others based on their size. Remarks like “fat and ugly” or “short and hideous” still abound online, as well as jokes about one’s “squinty Asian eyes”.
Like in all things, respect is in order here. We are all wonderfully and fearfully made.
We should also not judge what others wish to do with their bodies – it’s their lives that they are living, not ours.
#8 The Mindless Mobber
If everybody is doing it, it must be ok to do it right? After all, online mob behaviours have helped to bring certain individuals to justice.
Well, what happens if the crowd is wrong and injustice was served?
In considering what we should support (or not support), let us consider giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. Instead of spreading rumours and unverified half-truths, we should make it a point to investigate what we’ve read using the following S.U.R.E. approach (taken from NLB):
- Source: Look as its origins. Is it trustworthy?
- Understand: Know what you’re reading. Search for clarity.
- Research: Dig deeper. Go beyond the initial source.
- Evaluate: Find the balance. Exercise fair judgement.
Are there other forms of cyber bullies that you’re aware of? I’d love to hear from you.