June 06, 2020
Bullying has existed as long as there has been human civilization (http://ncpamd.com). Digital technology inadvertently becomes bullies’ weapon, sending mean messages to targets easier, faster, more intensely and more publicly involved. Bullies can use fake identity on social media to attack victims repeatedly. Without face-to-face confrontation, bullies are fearless to torment victims any time they want.
Cyberbullying is a Pandemic
Merriam-Webster dictionary describes cyberbullying as the electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person (such as student) often done anonymously. (https://www.merriam-webster.com). Cyberbullying usually stems from a tease or joke to make fun of another person among peers, or a dispute caused by prejudice or hatred with or without a reason and often involved a victim “being different” such as skin color, physical appearance, nationality, religion, values, attitudes and socioeconomic status. 45% of children age 8-12 years old worldwide have been affected by cyberbullying (https://www.dqinstitute.org/dqeverychild) .
DQ Institute, specializing in using comprehensive digital citizenship skills to promote digital intelligence among children, collected data from Thai students grade 4-6 totaling 42,000 samples from 362 primary schools located in Bangkok and across Thailand from July until October 2019. All data was analyzed and presented in Child Online Safety Index (COSI) 2020. Thailand’s National Report 2020 published by COSI indicated that Thai children age 8-19 years old encounter cyber risks at a much higher rate than their counterparts in other countries (47% to 37%). Thai boys are at greater risk than girls (53% to 41%). And almost half of Thai children age 8-12 years old have been bullied or witnessed bullying online while global average is 29%. Besides cyberbullying, COSI also reports the other cyber risks against children including disordered use of technology, risky contents, risky contacts, cyber threats, and reputational risk.
Cyberbullying hurts victims physically and emotionally. The feeling of embarrassment causes the child to isolate himself from friends and family, losing self-esteem and experiencing depression. Many victims blame themselves for being different and lose sleep and appetite. In severe cases, victimized children may hurt themselves or commit suicide. Hence, parents and teachers need to pay attention, taking on a very important role in grooming children to be digitally literate and capable of managing cyberbullying.
How to Manage Cyberbullying
When you are bullied online, first thing to do is to review your use of social media. Excessive chatting or posting increases chances of receiving mean-spirited messages. Use Facebook or Twitter sparingly. Do not talk back or fight back as it will worsen the situation. Instead, collect evidence by capturing negative messages on screen and log off all communication platforms to disconnect you from the bully. Notify social media administrator about the cyberbullying and report Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) to have the offender arrested. If you are a teenager or a child, talk to your parents or teacher about the incident so they can help you find a solution.
Remember that being different is not a crime. No matter who you are – black, minority, poor, physically handicapped, or LGBT, you should be treated with equality.
Teenagers and children should not take the matters into their own hands. Confronting the bully often escalates the dispute, causing more severe harassment and chances of physical attack. The best thing to do is talking to parents or teacher about the incident. Parents should be listening open-mindedly. Avoid reprimanding nor taking away the cell phone from the child. Instead, you should comfort your child and reassure him that he is doing the right thing by informing you about the incident. Be supportive and follow the protocol by notifying the social-media administrator, the teacher, and the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD). Seeking help from authorities is just a part of corrective actions. Equipping children with digital skills so they know how to protect themselves against cyberbullying and other cyber risks would be a sustainable investment.
Digital Intelligence (DQ): Immunizing Children from Cyberbullying
IQ or Intelligence Quotient measures levels of human intelligence in thinking, memorizing, analyzing, computing, and reasoning. EQ or Emotional Quotient gauges our ability in sensory perception, controlling one’s emotions and understanding feelings of others. Today’s digital world requires digital intelligence to engage wisely in loads of information, offerings, and temptations. To make a good decision, Parents need to develop DQ or Digital Intelligence Quotient to help emphasize children’s disciplines in cyber world as much as in real life. DQ program is designed by academic professionals from Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and Iowa State University (US) endorsed by World Economic Forum (WEF) and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Over 100 countries worldwide have adopted DQ program to assist teachers and parents in preparing young children to be digital citizen.
Coronavirus infected millions of world population early this year. Children have been forced to stay home, spending tremendous amount of time online and thus facing cyber risks. . AIS in collaboration with DQ Institute quickly introduces DQ for COVID-19 Emergency Response program, an eight-hour, e-learning course designed to help parents teach children at home how to interact safely and productively in the digital world. Simply register and have a child engage in DQ’s eight lessons averaging one hour per lesson per day. Key topics include Digital Citizen Identity, Screen-Time Management, Cyberbullying Management, Cyber Security, Digital Empathy, Digital Footprints, Critical Thinking and Privacy Management. Sign up now and receive free access to DQ lessons for a limited time (only 32,000 accounts available). Children will also receive DQ scorecards showing their levels of understanding and attitude towards eight digital skills. Parents can find out their child’s strength and weakness and give appropriate advice.
As children grow up in the digital world facing child grooming, AI personalized offerings, fake news, deep fakes, and cyberbullying, it is imperative that parents implant human core values in their children such as critical thinking, honesty, empathy, personal safety, managing time and money wisely, and being helpful. Parents must be children’s role model by practicing the golden role - Do to others as you would have them do to you. This value will be your children’s key to digital citizenship, and prepare them further for digital creativity and digital entrepreneurship.