Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

Cyber bullying needs attention

We should make young people aware of how to deal with cyber bullying and blackmailing
Cyberbullying has many  consequences that we need to be aware of. (Gillian Wong / AP)
Cyberbullying has many consequences that we need to be aware of. (Gillian Wong / AP)

The decrease in the number of young people engaged in cybercrime cases in Abu Dhabi courts is good news, but it might not reflect the true breadth of the problem. The impact of cyberbullying is often hidden, as victims rarely report it to authorities out of fear, shame or simply a lack of awareness of their rights.

This is a worrying trend that requires our attention. For example, practices like cyberbullying or “trolling” can be seen as normal for young people. As a 16-year-old told The National, teenagers create what they call a “jovial” atmosphere by making fun of each other on social media platforms, such as WhatsApp and Facebook, and by publishing other people’s pictures without permission.

There are two red flags in what he said. First, jokes that might seem funny to the teller could impact the psychological well-being of the receiver, and can even lead to loneliness and social isolation, substance abuse or mental illnesses, including low self-esteem and depression. Second, obtaining photos of other people from social media networks can lead to serious cases of blackmail and abuse. Dubai Police recently urged victims of cyber blackmail to come forward, as they believe that the real number of cases exceeds those registered with authorities.

The frightening aspect of cyberbullying lies in the fact that perpetrators have the power to reach their targets at any time of the day or night. This might make it much more difficult to control than typical face-to-face situations. This is why awareness campaigns are so important.

On the other side, however, it is important that young people recognise the consequences of putting up private information, especially photographs. A photo shared with one set of friends, in one context, could be fine – but could be seen as something different devoid of that context.

Both sides, those bullying and those bullied, need to be aware of the consequences of their actions.

Updated: December 31, 2015 04:00 AM

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