Cyberbullying: Virtual threats a real danger

A looming threat: Of the 5% of respondents in the Digi survey who had been cyberbullied since the pandemic started, 50% reported that they had faced online bullying at least once a week.

SOCIAL media has increasingly become an inextricable part of our lives.

This is especially true for students who have had to adapt to using various online platforms as part of their studies when schools were forced to shutter because of Covid-19.

These platforms may be helpful for learning, but the more unsupervised time they spend online, the more they are exposed to the danger of cyberbullying.In the latest nationwide survey Digi Telecommunications conducted among 1,746 students aged under 21, it was found that 5% of the respondents had been cyberbullied since the pandemic hit in 2020.

Of that group, half said they had faced online bullying at least once a week, mainly from social media and messaging platforms.

“Only 42% said they had received some form of guidance in protecting themselves against online bullying, mainly from their parents, guardians or school-run initiatives.

“Meanwhile, 80% of children under the age of 10 reported that they had not received any form of cyberbullying protection training.

“This emphasises the need for greater collaboration by the government, industry, guardians, educators and parents to scale up initiatives to better safeguard young children against online risks,” Digi said in a statement in November last year.

Titled “Life Under Covid-19 for Children Online: Values & Challenges (2021)”, the survey was jointly conducted with Sunway University from August to September.

It further highlighted the fact that 71% of the respondents had more screen time since the pandemic, with 89% of them using smartphones to go online.

While younger respondents said they had spent most of their time e-learning, those aged 12 and over had spent more time on social media and video streaming platforms to feel connected to their friends and the latest trends.

U-Report, a social messaging tool and data collection system developed by Unicef, echoed the worrying findings.

Its “Cyber Bullying and Online Violence in Malaysia” June 2019 survey showed that of the 6,795 respondents, 72% had been victims of online violence or cyberbullying, with 30% of them aged 15 to 19.

While 80% of the respondents said online violence had occurred the most on social networks, about 61% of those aged 15 to 19 said they had experienced bullying through private messaging apps.

When asked if there was a helpline they could turn to if they were subjected to cyberbullying or online violence, an alarming 64% of respondents said they didn’t know.

Three months later, in September, Unicef released a statement, stating that one in three young people in 30 countries, which included Malaysia, said they had been victims of online bullying.

The poll, released by Unicef and the United Nations’ Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, also showed that one in five reported having skipped school due to cyberbullying and violence.

The figures are alarming and if preventive measures are not taken, we will continue to put our youths at risk of mental health problems, self-harm or worse, suicide. — By SANDHYA MENON


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