COVID 19 has severely impacted the way we live, work and learn. Most of our daily activities including learning have been moved to an online platform. Prior to COVID19, students usually spend time browsing and interacting with each other through social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp and several others too numerous to name. However, the above listed ones are the main Apps currently used. Now most of our children are required to attend online classes as face-to-face learning has been suspended in an effort to keep them safe and reduce the spread of the virus.
Of course, with more time being spent online, the risk of being cyber-bullied has increased significantly. This act is carried out in one of several ways:
Posting of embarrassing pictures
Name calling and harassment in group chats and also unwelcomed and mean comments on social media posts
Private DMs which threaten or attempt to intimidate
Spreading rumours online and in group chats
Isolation or exclusion from peer groups
Texting rude or negative comments.
All of the above are forms of cyberbullying and therefore all stakeholders must come together to address these issues. No longer can we hold educators solely responsible for managing children's activities and their role in bullying. Parents have a responsibility and even more so now, to monitor the online activities of their kids in every way. They must become familiar with the various social media platforms and the types of activities and friends which their kids interact with. Children should be engaged in frequent discussions about keeping safe online and the do's and don'ts of the cyberworld. It is also suggested that for younger children, permission and access to various applications should be managed by parents. This kind of monitoring can be a challenge as some parents are still required to work from office. For others who work from home, and especially with multiple children, the challenge might be monitoring their children's online activities while trying to remain productive. Regardless of the challenge, strategies must be developed in an effort to maintain a safe and healthy environment for the entire family. This might involve having regular family meetings where children are allowed to make suggestion and share their view on issues which affect them.
Educators also have a role to play by increasing the focus on bullying awareness and making this a sustained effort instead of just a one time activity during celebrated antibullying events. Peer counsellors and other student leaders should be properly trained to recognize and address bullying activities in a way that is effective for both the victim and perpetrator. Partnering with organizations who focus on this and other issues affecting children can also prove very beneficial in curtailing the bullying issue.
It is also very useful to know that most of these social media platforms have guidelines for usage which prohibits any kind of online bullying. Instagram, Facebook and TikTok all have publicly denounced the use of their platforms for this kind of activity.
The welfare of our children, our future leaders is paramount in this pandemic. The online world has many positives and benefits but we must also be aware of its harmful effects if abused. Each and everyone of us, has the responsibility to remain alert, vigilant, aware and ready to do what it takes to keep the children around us safe. It doesn't matter if it's your niece, nephew, student, child or neighbour, We are all our brother keepers. Let's keep our children safe from the misdeeds of the online bullies.