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CYBERBULLYING

Reader contribution

We are in the age of technology. We have cell phones, laptops, tablets etc. on us, which means technology is always at our fingertips. WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter are just some of the social media applications we use and most of these apps have a form of a messaging system, one way or another, you can communicate within these apps.

This starts out great, a message here and there expressing positive feedback and you feel that high and you just want to post more messages online. But then you get one negative comment and then another. You cannot hide from these types of people that want to hurt you. They have anonymity and have no fear of saying whatever they want to say. They hide behind a disguise and they think it is fun to make nasty comments about you.

Everyone at some time in their life has experienced bullying of some sort. Whether it be someone at school or work not liking you or your personalities clash. However, when does this go from dislike to something more? When did it turn from physical bullying to cyberbullying?

What makes it okay to say something to someone online that is hurtful and just nasty? Why do they choose to attack one person and not the next?

Our whole life is recorded in pictures or video form on our cell phones. Communication via WhatsApp is the new norm. Gifs, Meme’s, and funny messages are shared worldwide.

This is all fun and games until the replies turn ugly. One silly picture taken and shared and then shared again and then everyone else joins in on the “fun”. At first, it starts out innocently but then one nasty message leads to another and another and another. The messages start coming in daily and start breaking you down. You block them, however, they come through on other messaging apps. Then they start sharing screenshots of your conversations on their WhatsApp status, Facebook, or Instagram and so forth.

When does it turn from innocent fun to cyberbullying? You cannot escape cyberbullying. It is all around you. It is in your pocket.

Our children are at school all day and their idea of social interaction is chatting via WhatsApp to a school friend or other friends. One child posts a link to a questionnaire asking you what you think about them and, oh, by the way, it is anonymous. You can post whatever you like, and they will not know who you are or that it was you who posted it. They use our children’s insecurities to convince them to use these types of links.

Now, in all fairness, some children are genuinely good and write nice messages but other children go the other way and post the most horrible messages.

Messages can be degrading, sexist, about your looks or the looks of your boyfriend or girlfriend.

What happens next? You are hurt and you just go into fight or flight mode. You look for someone weaker than you to attack. You choose someone who viewed the statuses and attacks them, telling them that they shared a nasty message about you or something random. When you know it is not true, but you want to feel better. Then your message and message and message them, send them voice notes telling them that they are terrible when in fact you know that it is not true. You can’t stop now; you have already gone too far. You harass them until, at long last, they admit, under duress, that it was them, even if it was not.

This is cyberbullying. Harassing a person until they admit to doing something when they did not do it.

There is so much cyberbullying going on that we must watch over and pray for our children constantly. Teenagers are most likely to internalise a situation. We have children committing suicide because they get harassed online and do not know which way to turn. They are made to feel isolated and worth nothing.

Our children are so obsessed with being liked and popular that they will do or say anything. They need to be reassured constantly that they are worth so much more and no message will change that. We need to warn them that there are people out there that want to hurt them. Emotionally or physically. We need them to guard their hearts because they are our future.

In closing, please, check in with your children. If they are quieter than normal and checking their phones with a stressed look on their face. Just check in on them. It might be nothing, but it could be something.

 

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