How to Protect Teenagers from Cyberbullying
| Natia Bolghashvili - 16 Jun 2023

On December 1, 2017, the killing of two teenagers at School 51 on Khorava Street using knives highlighted the role of bullying in the commission of this crime. Unfortunately, the internalization achieved in the last decade has created a new type of bullying - cyberbullying. Buller's anonymity, which the Internet provides, has made victim abuse activities more intense and severe.

What is cyberbullying?

        Cyberbullying is bullying carried out using digital technologies, which takes place through social media, messaging or game platforms, and mobile phones. It is a repetitive behavior that aims to intimidate, embarrass and anger the target person. Examples of cyberbullying include:

• Spreading false information or embarrassing photo-video material about a specific person on social networks.

• Sending harmful, offensive, or threatening messages, photos, or videos through the messaging platform.

• Creating pages and accounts on social networks in the name of others to damage the victim's reputation in the eyes of the public.

In the 21st century, when most people are active users of the Internet, cyberbullying has become a big threat, especially among teenagers. Often the victims of cyberbullying are schoolchildren (according to research, the perpetrator and victim of cyberbullying are 12-19-year-olds of both sexes).

Unlike regular bullying, cyberbullying is not like face-to-face bullying/threats. It is usually permanent, public, and anonymous. The victim is not sure who is doing it and who to fear. Cyberbullying can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, anger, depression, truancy, poor academic performance, violence against others, and suicide. A study conducted on German students showed that as a result of cyberbullying: 67.9% became angry; 35.9% suffered mental damage; 22.3% - became desperate; 21.5% felt helpless; 17.9% were afraid. Cyberbullying victims faced psychosomatic problems: 7.6% had headaches; 6.6% have abdominal pain and 17.1% had insomnia. In addition, 3.7% no longer wanted to go to school and 9.3% did not want to communicate with friends.

practical experience

Distance education, unfortunately, increased the cases of cyberbullying even more, and teenagers practically became vulnerable to the mentioned challenge, therefore, for the prevention of cyberbullying, I aimed to raise awareness among students (6th grade), namely:

• I suggested to minors to analyze what cyberbullying is and how it manifests itself.

• Have we discussed who can become a bully or vice versa, a victim of cyberbullying?

• Discuss ways to protect against cyberbullying.

To make the problem visible, the students watched the movie "Cyberbully" (2011), the movie portrays the harsh reality and best shows how bullying attempts made using the social network can lead the victim to commit suicide.

Through practice, it was established that the students had a general idea about cyberbullying, but there was a clear lack of knowledge about the prevention of the latter or the measures to be taken in case of becoming a victim. In some cases, it turned out that they became victims of bullying on the social network. In the background of the discussion and consideration of various examples, the students realized the danger of cyberbullying and the accompanying, in some cases, irreversible consequences that can result from a seemingly "harmless" action.

How to recognize that a child is a victim of online bullying?

• He no longer wants to communicate, he closes in himself.

• He is always worried, and his sleep pattern is disturbed.

• As soon as he sees his parents or someone else, he turns off the computer, trying not to let anyone know what he is doing.

• Asks unusual questions about suicide, revenge, and similar issues.

• Avoids using the Internet.

Cyberbullying Prevention Strategies

• Adolescents should learn to protect the confidentiality of information (not to share their data with others), and also not to establish contact with those they do not know personally through social networks.

• In case of unwanted communication on the social network, the teenager should save photos, comments, and personal messages (in the form of "screenshots") and contact a teacher, parent, or other authority to take measures on this matter, so that the bully does not have the feeling of "impunity syndrome".

• In case of long-term harassment, it is necessary to actively involve adults and inform the police, since some forms of cyberbullying may even be a crime (for example, sending threatening or obscene sexual messages).

• Minors should understand the need to use secure passwords and access codes, in particular, they should not choose e. year Intuitive passwords, do not reveal data from social networks or other sites to anyone.

• In some cases, it is better to temporarily stop using the pages and social networks where they are victims of cyberbullying or create a new profile with a name that is harder to find and add only those with whom they want to keep in touch.

Finally, active parental involvement is crucial in the cyberbullying prevention process. The parent needs to teach the child what is right and what is not, often talk to the teenager about the possible negative consequences of spending too much time on social media, and pay attention to the child's behavior when using the phone or computer. Due to the complexity of the problem, it is necessary to combine all such forces to fight against cyberbullying, such as the education system, parental involvement, the role of children's rights defenders, the goodwill of the state, and community activism.

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