CYBERBULLYING- AN EPIDEMIC ISSUE : MUSKAN DOSAR & SHIVANGI VERMA

CYBERBULLYING- AN EPIDEMIC ISSUE (Detailed discussion on new emerging social platforms like Tik Tok)

ISSN: 2582-3655

Author: Muskan Dosar[1] &Shivangi Verma[2]

ABSTRACT:

Technology has various advantages for us. With the growth of technology, our work is becoming easier day by day. In today’s society, on one hand, where the advancement of technologies has brought several opportunities, at another place it has brought various drawbacks for society.

One of the most threatening crimes emerging from technology can be termed as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying, or online bullying, can be defined as ‘the use of technologies by an individual or by a group of people to deliberately and repeatedly upset someone else”[3]. Cyberbullying, bullying via electronic media, is a growing problem in middle and high schools across the world. As technology has become more advanced, cyberbullying is now able to occur from several outlets including cellular phones, Internet chat rooms, online blogs, e-mails, and instant messaging. Many college students find themselves spending countless hours using some form of digital technology.[4]

This paper will deal with the following issues:

  • What is cyberbullying?
  • Impact of cyberbullying
  • Methods of cyberbullying
  • Forms of cyberbullying ( detailed discussion on the social platform – Tik tok)
  • Suggestions to combat cyberbullying.

Keywords- technology, cyberbullying, electronic media

WHAT IS CYBERBULLYING?

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior.[5]The latest generation, however, has been able to utilize technology to expand their reach and the extent of their harm. This phenomenon is being called cyberbullying, defined as: “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” Basically, we are referring to incidents where adolescents use technology to harass, threaten, humiliate, or otherwise hassle their peers.[6]

The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:

  • Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snap chat, Tik Tok, like, Vigo video and Twitter
  • SMS (Short Message Service) also known as Text Message sent through devices
  • Instant Message (via devices, email provider services, apps, and social media messaging features)
  • Email[7]

IMPACT OF CYBERBULLYING

Cyberbullying hampers mental state of a person. Various psychological problems such as depression, frustration, hating oneself, being sad and angry may result from cyberbullying. The victim may not be able to communicate his/her grievances to anyone around them and may suffer from various mental and health issues.

As one teenager stated: “It makes me hurt both physically and mentally. It scares me and takes away all my confidence. It makes me feel sick and worthless.” Those who are victimized by cyberbullying also reveal that they are often afraid or embarrassed to go to school. In addition, research has revealed a link between cyberbullying and low self-esteem, family problems, academic difficulties, school violence, and various delinquent behaviors. Finally, cyberbullied youth also report having suicidal thoughts, and there have been a number of examples in the United States and abroad where youth who were victimized ended up taking their own lives.[8]

Consequences of cyberbullying may result in school dropout, poor academic performance, low self-esteem, family problems, but the worst consequences are suicidal thoughts and violence.

METHODS OF CYBERBULLYING

Cyberbullying can be done through various methods, some of them are listed below:[9]

Harassing Someone

  • Using text messaging, instant messaging and email to harass, threaten or embarrass the target.
  • Posting rumors, threats or embarrassing information on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Engaging in “warning wars.” (Many Internet Service Providers and social media sites offer a way to report a user who is saying something inappropriate. Kids use these report buttons as a way to get the victim in trouble or kicked offline.)
  • Participating in text wars or text attacks, which occur when bullies gang up on the victim and send thousands of texts. These attacks not only cause emotional distress but create a large cell phone bill.

Impersonating Someone

  • Developing a screen name that is similar to the victim’s screen name and then posting rude or hurtful remarks while pretending to be the victim.
  • Stealing the victim’s password and chatting with other people while pretending to be the victim. The bully will say mean things that offend and anger the victim’s friends or acquaintances.
  • Changing the target’s online profile to include sexual, racist or other inappropriate things.
  • Setting up an account on a social networking site and posting as the victim while saying mean, hurtful or offensive things online. Actual photos of the victim may be used to make the account look authentic.
  • Posing as the victim and posting in chat rooms of known child molesters, hate groups or dating sites. The bully may even provide the victim’s personal information encouraging those in the groups to contact the victim.
  • Pretending to be someone else in order to lure an unsuspecting person into a fake relationship. This type of activity is often called catfishing.

Using Photographs

  • Taking nude or degrading pictures of the victim in a locker room, a bathroom or dressing room without his or her permission.
  • Threatening to share embarrassing photos as a way of controlling or blackmailing the victim.
  • Sending mass emails or text messages that include nude or degrading photos of the victim. This behavior is often called ‘sexting’ and once the photos are sent, there is no way to control it. The photos can be distributed to hundreds of people within just a few hours.
  • Posting nude pictures on photo-sharing sites for anyone on the Internet to view and download.
  • Using photographs to shame someone online. One common tactic teens use is to engage in slut-shaming this behavior involves shaming someone, usually a girl, for the way she dresses, acts or the number of people she has dated.

Creating Websites, Blogs, Polls, and More

  • Developing a website with information that is humiliating, embarrassing or insulting for the victim.
  • Spreading RUMORS, lies or gossip about the victim online through websites or blogs.
  • Posting the victim’s personal information and pictures on a website, which puts the victim in danger of being contacted by predators.
  • Creating a blog about the victim that is embarrassing, insulting or humiliating.
  • Using the information that was shared in confidence and making it public.
  • Conducting an Internet poll about the victim. Questions in the poll may vary including everything from who is ugly and who smells to who is dumb and who is fat.
  • Posting rude, mean or insulting comments about the victim via the chat option of online gaming sites.
  • Sending viruses, spyware or hacking programs to the victim in order to spy on the victim or control his or her computer remote.

Participating in Video Shaming 

  • Using a camera phone to video and later share a bullying incident, which may include one or more kids slapping, hitting, kicking or punching the victim.
  • Downloading a video of something humiliating and posting it to YouTube in order to allow a larger audience to view the incident.
  • Sharing a video via mass e-mail or text messaging to humiliate and embarrass the victim.
  • Creating an incident that causes another person to become upset or emotional and then record the incident. This type of activity is often referred to as cyber baiting. Teachers are a common target for cyber baiting incidents.

Engaging in Sub tweeting or vague booking

  • Posting tweets or Facebook posts that never mention the victim’s name. Yet the victim, the bully and often a larger audience know who the posts are referencing.
  • Using subtle posts and tweets to fuel the rumor mill while avoiding detection by teachers, administrators, and parents.

FORMS OF CYBERBULLYING

Cyberbullying can be categorized into several types:

  1. Cyberbullying through calls
  2. Cyberbullying through social media, such as- Facebook, Instagram, telegram, etc.
  3. Cyberbullying through picture/video clip, such as Tik Tok, Vigo video, like the app, etc.
  4. Cyberbullying through e-mail
  5. Cyberbullying through text messages

Cyberbullying through calls:

Receiving threatening calls, calls compelling a person to do something wrong or being abused on a call, threaten to kill one’s family or close ones are some examples of cyberbullying through call.

Cyberbullying through social media, such as- Facebook, Instagram, telegram, etc.:

One of the biggest things that people of online communities tend to overlook is the fact that words do hurt. Facebook actually has 2.07 billion active users and counting on its website. This statistic as a whole pretty much gives an inference about social media’s impact. Unfortunately, when it comes to allowing everyone to post in various social networking sites, what they may want, you may sometimes come across the pages or people who are negative; and that’s how cyberbullying occurs[10]

Cyberbullying through picture/video clip, such as Tik Tok, Vigo video, like the app, etc.

Various social platforms allow people to share their videos and other video clips for the matter of being famous and showcasing their talent. But misuse of these platforms had unfortunately led to drastic mental and physical harm to many people around the globe. Even so many people have lost their life or life of their loved ones due to these social platforms. We will have a detailed discussion on one of these platforms here i.e. Tik Tok:

What is TikTok?

It’s a social media app that gives users the opportunity to share 60 second short videos with friends, family or the entire world. Like Twitter-owned Vine and Musical.ly before it, videos shared range from funny sketches to lip-sync videos featuring special effects. Currently, the app is available in 34 languages with 150 million active users. Like Musical.ly before it, it is most popular with under 16s.[11]

Tik Tok and cyberbullying

According to a report, a counselor working with a distress line in southern India received 36 calls just in December month from children who were allegedly bullied on the platform. Last October, a 24-year-old man jumped in front of a train after he was mocked for posting a video to Tik Tok in which he dressed as a woman. Another teen reportedly committed suicide in Mumbai after her grandmother scolded her for using the app. In response, the company said that it’ll hire an officer to handle bullying grievances:

“At Tik Tok, maintaining a safe and positive in-app environment is our priority. We have robust measures to protect users against misuse, including easy reporting mechanisms that enable users and law enforcement to report content that violates our terms of use and community guidelines. We are committed to respecting local laws and regulations, and in order to better coordinate with law enforcement agencies, we are also in the process of hiring a Chief Nodal Officer, based out of India.”[12]

Children are not only spending more and more time online but doing so without any understanding of online etiquette.  The addiction begins with users competing over getting the maximum followers on their profile. “On apps like Tik Tok, users tend to compete over securing the maximum number of likes and followers and indulge in posting certain videos and other activities. And so, children using the app are likely to spend long hours on it rather than utilizing the time to study or play,” cybercrime consultant and information security professional Makes Chaudhary told Express Parenting.[13]

Lack of regulation on internet activity has only increased online bullying over the years, with children being at a greater risk of abuse. There have been pressing challenges like exposure to sensitive content, predatory behavior, and harmful impact on a child’s mental health due to not being able to be as popular as their peers. One bad video can lead them to gain and loss of a number of followers, this, however, is affecting their mental peace a lot. Gaining is still fine but losing their followers lead them to greater disappointment and embarrassment among their peer group which in lieu hampers their mental health and causes anxiety and depression in teenagers.

Tik Tok incidents

  • The most recent case that was noted took place on April 2019. A 19-year-old boy, Salman Zakir, was accidentally shot by his friend Sohail in the cheek while trying to make a TikTok video. The shooting ultimately resulted in the death of Salman and his other two friends were arrested for the incident.[14]
  • In February 2019, a college student from Tamil Nadu died as his scooter rammed into a bus. Three students, Surya, Reagan, and Vignesh were having a joyride on a scooter while one of the pavilion riders was making a TikTok video. It is evident in the video that the bike lost balance and smashed into a bus resulting in the death of one of the three.[15]
  • Tik Tok challenge proved deadly for a 12-year-old boy from Kota, Rajasthan. The boy died when he hanged himself from a noose as a part of the Tik Tok challenge.

Before hanging himself, the boy had worn mangal sutra (sacred thread worn by Hindu married women) and bangles. He then wrapped a thick metal chain around his neck and hanged himself with it in his bathroom — all apparently part of the rules of Tik Tok challenge.

The incident took place late at night. When the boy’s family found him missing in the morning, they raised an alarm. They later discovered him hanging from the ceiling of the bathroom. According to the boy’s father, the state he was found in was exactly like that described in the Tik Tok challenge. “He was wearing mangal sutra and bangles and was wearing a noose made from chains and was found hanging. He was using Tik Tok the entire night,” the father of the child said.

“If it was not for Tik Tok then my child would have been alive,” the distraught father added.[16]

  • A 20-year-old boy was held for allegedly snatching an I-phone in Preet Vihar area of East Delhi, police said on Sunday. The accused, Jatin Nagar, was arrested on Saturday from Vikas Marg in East Delhi. While speaking to the police, the accused, said he had stolen the phone as the device had all the high-quality features to make videos. According to police, the accused earned money by posting videos on an app called TikTok.

On Wednesday, a complaint was filed at Preet Vihar police station, in which the complainant, Jatin Chhabra, said he had posted an advertisement on OLX to sell his I-phone. The meeting between the two was fixed at Preet Vihar signal at 6 pm and the finalized price of the phone was Rs 80,000, the complainant further said.
Jatin Chhabra, a resident of Gujranwala town, said the accused snatched the phone and fled from the spot. The accused was working at Nazeer Food’s call center, Kaushambi in Ghaziabad, police said. The accused, a resident of Gautam Budh Nagar in Uttar Pradesh, has no previous criminal record, police added.[17]

  • The teenager was killed after accidentally pressing the trigger of a country-made pistol while shooting a clip for the social video app TikTok in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, police said Thursday. Pratik Wadekar (17) and his relatives were posing for a TikTok video with a country-made pistol one of his relatives had brought, police said. The social video app claims that it has 200 million users in India, of which 120 million are active every month. Pratik died on the spot during the incident, which took place in the temple town of Shirdi Wednesday evening, police said. Incidentally, he and his relatives Sunny Pawar (20), Nitin Wadekar (27), an 11-year-old boy and another young man were in Shirdi for the last rituals of a family member, police said. While sitting in their hotel room, they decided to shoot a video on the mobile phone by posing with a country-made pistol one of Pratik’s relatives had brought, and upload it on the TikTok app.

“The trigger of the pistol was accidentally pressed and the bullet hit Pratik,” said inspector Anil Katke of Shirdi police station. As he collapsed, others ran out of the room, and when the hotel staff, alerted by the gunshot, tried to stop them, one of them allegedly threatened to open fire and fled, the police officer said. Police took Pratik to the government hospital where he was declared dead before admission.

A case has been registered under IPC sections 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder), police said, adding Sunny Pawar and Nitin Wadekar was arrested while another relative was yet to be traced.[18]

  • One more TikTok incident, that was way more disturbing and hair raising took place in Punjab on January 2019. While trying to make a TikTok video, a man lost his life in the accident. In the video, a farmer is seen trying to get on a moving tractor which has a cultivator attached to it. The man’s foot slips and instead of climbing on the tractor he ends up under the tire of the tractor and ultimately dying under the cultivator machine.[19]

TikTok ban (s Muthu v. TRAI, raj, the district collector Madurai)

In April 2018, TikTok was banned in India by the Madras High Court, which said it was spreading pornography, potentially exposing children to sexual predators, and adversely impacting it’s the mental health of its users. The ban, however, was lifted on April 24. The order by Justice Kirubakaran and S. Sundar had pointed out four key issues with the application:[20]

  • Pornography and mental health: contains “degrading culture and encouraging pornography besides causing pedophiles and explicit disturbing content, social stigma and mental health issue between teens”…”It is evident from media reports that pornography and inappropriate contents are made available on this kind of cyber applications.
  • Pranks: “the majority of teens are playing pranks, gaffing around with duet videos sharing with split-screen to the strangers”…”People are “making cruel humor against innocent third parties. Even television channels are also telecasting Tik Tok videos”…”Nobody can be pranked or shocked or being made as a subject of mockery by any third party and it would amount to the violation of the privacy.”
  • Potential exposure of Children to sexual predators: Children who use the application “are vulnerable and may expose them to sexual predators”…Children are exposed to strangers and there is a possibility of the photographs and other private details of strangers being landed in the hands of predators or third parties”…”There is a possibility of children contacting strangers directly and luring them.”
  • Addiction: “By becoming addicted to Tik Tok App, and similar Apps, or cyber games, the future of the youngsters and mindset of the children are spoiled.”

TikTok has been accused of being a hostile place for children before the ban as well. In April, Nagalakshmi Bai, the head of the KSCW (Karnataka State Commission for Women), called for a ban on TikTokbecause it encouraged pornography. She said that the videos that children using the app make are overtly sexual in nature, which is a reason for concern. “We are worried about the ill-effects the app could have on young minds. Recently, there were incidents in Bengaluru and Mumbai involving children, where a teenaged boy sexually assaulted his younger sister. Apps like these are a reason that women are objectified,” she added.[21]

This is not the first time TikTok has been linked to killings and suicide cases. The social video app claims that it has 200 million users in India, of which 120 million are active every month. Earlier a 15-year-old girl from Mumbai hanged herself on her birthday after her grandmother scolded her for being addicted to the app. In April, a 19-year-old from Delhi was accidentally shot by his friend while making a TikTok video. There were discoveries of obscene and pornographic content floating around the app, which led to Madras High Court banning the app for a while. This ban was later vacated with an order that inappropriate videos shouldn’t be circulated in future, on the app, failing which contempt of court proceedings would begin. Such incidents are sorrowful, when comes into light. Apps like TikTok cannot be completely blamed for the demise of any individual. Instead, such apps should be censored for only individuals above a certain age, who can decide for themselves instead of acting at the moment.[22]

Cyberbullying through e-mail:

E-mail is one of the most professional cyber tools may even be considered as a tool of cyberbullying. As most of our private, personal and professional data is present there on our emails, if by any case goes in wrong hands can cause us major harm.

Cyberbullying through text messages

Text bullying is sending mean, embarrassing, untrue, or hurtful messages to or about someone using cell phone text messaging. This can also include sexting or sending sexually suggestive text messages to someone or about someone.[23]

CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS

In today’s world, it is next to impossible to completely stay clear of cyber threats. It is also not possible to maintain surveillance on your child’s online presence all the time. So, it is important to not only be educated about the dangers your child may face, but also talk to them about how they can detect these threats and protect themselves from becoming victims.[24]

There are two primary challenges today that make it difficult to prevent cyberbullying. First, even though this problem has been around for well over a decade, some people still don’t see the harm associated with it. Some attempt to dismiss or disregard cyberbullying because there are “more serious forms of aggression to worry about.”

The other challenge relates to who is willing to step up and take responsibility for responding to inappropriate use of technology. Parents often say that they don’t have the technical skills to keep up with their kids’ online behavior and that schools should be covering it in detail during class time and through another programming.[25]

Here are some of the suggestions to control and keep a check on cyberbullying:

  • An individual may always develop a relationship with any adult around them ( parent, teacher or someone else and seek their guidance in case of any such event
  • There should be an introduction to more privacy features on social media apps.
  • Parents should keep a regular check on what their child is doing on the internet.
  • Parents should maintain a healthy relationship with their child, so there are comfortable sharing their problems with their parents.
  • In schools, teachers should keep a check on students and teach them about cyberbullying and the ways to prevent them.
  • There is already various helpline no. available to help out victims of cyberbullying, a person should keep himself or herself updated about all the help available by govt.
  • The government should take cyberbullying as a serious crime, and implement stricter statutory provisions.
  • Government should organize campaigns in order to spread information about cyberbullying.
  • Victims of cyberbullying must be consulted to a psychiatrist and should be handled with love and care.

[1] Studying in 2nd year BBA-LL.B. (Hons.) at ‘ The ICFAI University, Dehradun’; Email- muskandosar@gmail.com, Mobile no.- 9305024341

[2] Studying in 4th year B.TECH in Computer Science LL.B .(Hons.) specialization in Cyber Law at ‘ UNIVERSITY OF PETROLEUM AND ENERGY STUDIEs, Dehradun’; Email- vshivangi61@gmail.com ; Mobile No.- 7060131242

[3]CYBERBULLYING: Guidance for schools, Children international (childnet.com/ufiles/Cyberbullying-guidance2.pdf)

[4] Cyberbullying on Social Media Among College Students, Lakitta D. Johnson, Alfonso Haralson, Sierra Batts, Ebonie Brown, Cedric Collins, Adrian Van Buren-Travis, and Melissa Spencer

[5]https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/index.html

[6] Cyberbullying: Identification, Prevention, & Response, Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D. Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D. Cyberbullying Research Center

[7]ibid

[8] ibid

[9]6 Types of Cyberbullying, by Sherri Gordon (https://www.verywellfamily.com/types-of-cyberbullying-460549)

[10] Cyber bullying and Social Media, by Bahati Russell (https://www.hastac.org/blogs/bahatiakili/2017/12/02/cyber-bullying-and-social-media)

[11]https://www.internetmatters.org/hub/esafety-news/tik-tok-app-safety-what-parents-need-to-know/

[12]https://thenextweb.com/in/2019/02/13/tiktok-is-under-fire-in-india-over-alleged-cyberbullying/

[13]https://indianexpress.com/article/parenting/family/tiktok-video-app-child-safety-cyber-bullying-5664906/

[14]https://www.indiatoday.in/trending-news/story/tiktok-accidents-kill-even-as-ban-order-sword-hangs-over-it-1502306-2019-04-15

[15] Ibid.

[16]https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/tiktok-challenge-boy-hangs-self-wearing-mangalsutra-bangles-kota-rajasthan-1553087-2019-06-20

[17]https://www.indiatoday.in/crime/story/20-year-old-tiktok-fanatic-arrested-snatching-phone-east-delhi-1550081-2019-06-16

[18]https://www.indiatoday.in/crime/story/maharashtra-teenager-killed-while-posing-with-pistol-for-tiktok-clip-1548418-2019-06-13

[19]Supra note 3.

[20]https://www.medianama.com/2019/07/223-why-they-want-tiktok-banned-in-india/

[21] Ibid.

[22]https://trak.in/tags/business/2019/06/14/tiktok-is-killing-indians-two-gruesome-deaths-happened-because-of-tiktok-what-is-the-reason/

[23]Text Bullying – Bullies That Use Text Messaging to Harass Others, (http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/text-bullying.html)

[24]economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/60957324.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst

[25] Cyberbullying: Identification, Prevention, & Response, Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D. Justin W. Patchin, Ph.D. Cyberbullying Research Center

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