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A Look Into Cyber Bullying in the Digital Age

These days cyber bullying is becoming more rampant as people spend most of their time using technology to keep in touch with the world. There are many different ways in which cyberbullies can reach their victims, including instant messaging over the Internet, social networking web sites, text messaging and phone calls to cell phones.

There are different forms of cyberbullying including harassment, impersonation, and cyberstalking. Like bullying, cyberbullying is a serious problem which can cause the victim to feel inadequate and overly self-conscious, along with the possibility of committing suicide due to being cyberbullied. In other words, it's anything that gets posted online and is meant to hurt, harass, or upset someone else.

It is a kind of online communication in which a person or a group of persons destroy the reputation and privacy of a person, which results in long-lasting traumatizing impact on the mind of that person. It means if a person uses the internet in a wrongful manner can affect the life of a person.

Cyberbullies have a wide range of platforms to choose from when trying to harass, shame, hurt, threaten or intimidate others. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and Reddit are only some of the possible options.

Cyberbullying involves the use of information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or group that is intended to harm others. Cyberbullying is different from traditional bullying due to the anonymity that the Internet provides. Cyberbullies do not have to own their actions due to the anonymity and it is often outside of the legal reach of schools and school boards since it often happens outside of the school.

These forms include flaming, harassment, denigration, impersonation, outing, trickery, exclusion, cyberstalking, and cyberthreats. Cyberbullying is more likely than other forms of bullying to go unreported to parents and administrators. This is because the victim feels to learn to deal with it themselves and also being afraid that if they tell their parents, their internet privileges will be reduced or taken away.

The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are: social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok, text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices, Instant messaging, direct messaging, and online chatting over the internet, Online rooms, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit, Email, Online gaming communities.

With the popularity of social media and digital forums, comments, photos, posts, and content shared by individuals can often be viewed by strangers as well as acquaintances. The content an individual shares online both their personal content as well as any negative, mean, or hurtful content that creates a kind of permanent public record of their views, activities, and behaviour.

This public record can be thought of as an online reputation, which may be accessible to schools, employers, colleges, clubs, and others who may be researching an individual now or in the future. Cyberbullying can harm the online reputations of everyone involved not just the person being bullied, but those doing the bullying or participating in it.

It has unique concerns in that it can be:
  • Persistent:
    Digital devices offer an ability to immediately and continuously communicate 24 hours a day, so it can be difficult for children experiencing cyberbullying to find relief.
  • Permanent:
    Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public, if not reported and removed. A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact college admissions, employment, and other areas of life.
  • Hard to Notice:
    Because teachers and parents may not overhear or see cyberbullying taking place, it is harder to recognize.

Cyberbullying happens for any reason, like hatred, jealousy, insecurity or any other reason. It takes place on online platforms in various forms like that of text or email in different ways by either commenting on someone's post or video on social media in a negative, threatening manner which hurts the sentiments of the person about whom they are written. It can also happen when somebody demeans or writes or posts some mean thing that can be audio/video/posts. Such matters that are posted online come under the subject matter of cyberbullying.

It is then when the child fails to understand that what should be said and in which manner should that be conveyed. People often confuse it with the right to speech and expression under the Fundamental rights given by the Constitution. It is correct to say that everyone has the right to speak but there is a certain restriction to everything.

Similarly, the use of this fundamental right is limited to the extent that you do not harm the dignity of any other person, be it a known person or somebody unknown to you. Every person has a human right to live his or her life with full dignity and how he wants to lead his life, which is also granted by the Indian Constitution as a fundamental right. People often forget to consider the dignity of the other person and end up bullying the person. Although to defend cyber freedom, the right to free speech and expression should be provided widely, but it cannot also be denied that ensuring absolute freedom will amount to the spread of cyberbullying, offensive statements as well as hate speech resulting in bodily injury to any individual.

Statement of the Problem
Cyberbullying is a new form of bullying that follows students from the hallways of their schools to the privacy of their homes. Many victims of cyberbullying are bullied from the moment they wake up and check their cell phone or e-mail, to the time they go to bed and shut off their computer or cell phone.

The purpose of this comprehensive research paper is to further understand cyberbullying which continues to occur more frequently as technology becomes more readily accessible by the masses, especially students; and to explore ways of preventing cyberbullying before it happens, and intervening after it has occurred.

Nowadays, when the internet is present in every sector of our lives like in (education, information, shopping, etc), adolescents are fascinated by the opportunities of the new technologies. Youngsters use the internet and mobile phones for easy access to knowledge, for better and wider communication, for social interactions; and all of these can be done at any time or at any place.

However, all these are the benefits of the new technologies but along with this there are some threats for the school and college going students in this virtual world. Most of the today's generation instead of using internet for some innovative and informative motive, move to wrong directions. They try to have access to pornography, doing online bullying, stalking. These activities have increased nowadays.

Young adults can also use the internet and mobile phones for doing wrongful actions which are being prohibited by law which cess sending shameful pictures or messages, threatening someone, spreading rumours about someone, sarcastic comment on physical characteristics of someone.

Such online activities are called cyberbullying which is also defined as "an aggressive act or anti-social behaviour that is done using electronic means by a group or an individual repeatedly against a victim who cannot easily defend himself/herself".

So therefore, it can be said that, cyberbullying is a type of bullying occurring by the use of digital technology. The term cyberbullying can be called by different names such as: cyber bullying, e-bullying, cyber harassment, text bullying, SMS bullying, mobile bullying, digital bullying, internet bullying. In this paper we will use "cyberbullying" to refer to the harassment of the others through new electronic technologies, first of all by the internet and smart phones.

Meaning of cyber bullying:

The term Cyber bullying was for the first time coined by Bill Belsey, who was a Canadian educator. Cyber bullying means using both information and communication technology beyond the limit with the intention to harm a person's reputation, state of mind, or to humiliate a person. It is an act by which the person being bullied suffers an adverse effect.[1] Cyber bullying is bullying that takes place through the medium of digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets, I- pad laptops etc. Cyber bullying can occur through SMS, Text messages, and on chat rooms, forums, or online games where people can view, participate in, or share contents.

It means sending, posting, or sharing negative thoughts, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information of someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some of the acts of cyber bullying also include unlawful or criminal behaviour.

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive and anti-social behaviours among school aged children who commits cyber bullying with their classmates which involves teasing, embarrassing, making sexually coloured remarks to girl child or discloses the private information regarding someone to cause annoyance. This behaviour is frequently repeated by the perpetrator.

Some of the most common cyber bullying tactics include:

Posting rude comments or rumours about someone online that are mean, hurtful, or embarrassing in nature, threatening to hurt someone, Posting a mean or hurtful picture or video. Pretending to be someone else online in order to solicit or post personal or false information about someone else. Posting mean or hateful names, comments, or content about any race, religion, ethnicity, or other personal characteristics online. Creating a mean or hurtful webpage about someone.

Cyber bullying may take many different forms across a variety of internet platforms:

  • Humiliating/embarrassing content posted online about the victim of online bullying
  • Hacking of account
  • Posting vulgar messages
  • Threatening the victim to commit an act of violence
  • Stalking
  • Child pornography or threats of child pornography
  • Doxing, an acronym for "doxing," is a type of online harassment used to exact retribution and to threaten and obliterate people's privacy by making their private information, such as addresses, social security numbers, credit card numbers, phone numbers, links to social media accounts, and other details, public
  • Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone verbally, and excluding someone from a group for specific purpose

Causes of Cyber-Bullying:

  • The primary cause of cyberbullying is when a person who commits the offense is completely unknown, in which a person who is bullying can easily target anyone over the internet by hiding his/her original identity
  • There are various other factors which are responsible for a person to become a cyberbully such as personality traits are responsible for cyberbullying behaviors or anti-social behaviors
  • Another primary cause is online shyness or hampering, in which a person bullies others with the motives of causing harm, domination, or taking revenge, or just for fun
  • The next one is egotism which means individuals consider social status and authority dominant over their human relations
  • The last is aggression, which refers to overcoming negativities and failures by force, triggering them to do cyberbullying for satisfaction

Types of cyber bullying:

  • Exclusion:
    Exclusion is the premeditated exclusion of someone. Exclusion is a factor in both online bullying and physical bullying scenarios where a victim is targeted. For instance, your child may be left out of message threads or chats with people they both know while other friends are invited or involved in groups or events.
  • Harassment:
    Harassment is a broader term under which includes many types of cyberbullying, but it generally refers to a constant pattern of sending hurtful or threatening online messages with the intention of doing harm to someone.
  • Outing/Doxing:
    Basically, the term doxing refers to the act of openly revealing sensitive or personal information about someone without their consent with the objective of embarrassing or humiliating them. This can also extend to spreading personal pictures or documents of public figures or sharing an individual's saved personal messages in an online private group. The constant lack of consent of the victim.
  • Trickery:
    Trickery incorporates the element of deception and is comparable to the idea of doxing. In this type of cyberbullying, the bully would develop cordial relationships with the victim in an effort to give them a false sense of security. Once the bully obtains the target's trust, they take advantage of it by disclosing the victim's secrets and personal information to one or more parties.
  • Cyberstalking:
    It is the recurrent contact and harassment of someone through technology, such as social media, emails, and text messages, making them fear for their safety. It is a type of cyberbullying that is similar to in-person stalking in that it invades the privacy of the target and has the potential to be emotionally damaging.
  • Fraping:
    Frapping is when a bully posts offensive stuff using the name of the victim on social media. When friends publish amusing things to each other's profiles, it can be innocent but also extremely dangerous. For instance, a bully posting homophobic or racial remarks through another person's profile to harm that person's reputation.
  • Masquerading:
    Masquerading occurs when a bully creates a false online identity or profile with the intent to bully someone online. This can entail choosing a new identity and set of images to deceive the victim, as well as creating a false email account and social media presence. In these situations, the bully is frequently someone the victim knows well.
  • Dissing:
    Dissing refers to the act of a bully spreading cruel information about their target through public posts or private messages to either ruin their reputation or relationships with other people. In these situations, the bully tends to have a personal relationship with the victim.
  • Trolling:
    Trolling is when a bully will seek out to intentionally upset others by posting inflammatory comments online. Trolling may not always be a form of cyberbullying, but it can be used as a tool to cyberbully when done with malicious and harmful intent. These bullies tend to be more detached from their victims and do not have a personal relationship.
  • Flaming:
    Flaming or roasting is the act of using abusive language or using profanity to publish insults online.

Nevertheless, there are certain sections under Chapter XI of the act which may provide remedy for the actions of cyberbullying to some extent:

Section 66 (A):

Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication services.

This section deals with the punishment for the offence of sending objectionable, derogatory, abusive, hurtful messages or material online through the internet on any social media or any other web chat room. It says that:
  1. any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character or
  2. any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill
    will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,
  3. any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.
Section 66(D): Punishment for cheating by personation by using computer source, If a person deceives, cheats someone through the internet on a social media or any other online
platform, that person should be punished for up to 3 years of imprisonment and fine of up to 1 lakh rupees.

Section 66(C): Punishment for identity theft

This section deals with the punishment for infringement of privacy, if a person violates someone's privacy digitally, using their pictures, sharing information, he is guilty for cyberbullying in a way and that person must be charged with a fine up to 3 lakh rupees or imprisonment for up to 3 years of imprisonment.

Section 67:Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form.

This section of the act deals with the punishment for uploading, transferring, circulating offensive, vulgar, indecorous material on the internet or cyberspace, with a fine up to 10 lakh rupees or imprisonment for up to 5 years.

Section 67 A:

Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act in electronic form.
This section punishes a person who sends or causes to send or publish any material containing sexually explicit acts or conduct in electronic media. The punishment includes imprisonment up to 5 years and a fine of up to 5 lakhs rupees.

Under Indian Penal Code:

Section 354D: Stalking
Under this section, a man who monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication commits the offence of stalking.

Whoever commits the offence of stalking shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine.[4]

Cyberbullying Laws in Different Countries:
  • Canada:
    Canada is the only country in the world which is having strictest laws to deal with Cyber bullying. They have a legislation called the "Education Act" which deals with cyber bullying, under which if a person is found guilty of cyberbullying, he/she may be charged a fine of $500 or 6 months of imprisonment or more.
  • European countries:
    To deal with cyber bullying, online harassment, Masquerading or any other Cybercrime, all European countries have the European Data Protection Legislation. United Kingdom: For dealing with Cyber bullying cases, the United Kingdom has the Malicious Communications Act legislation under which, if found a person is involved in cyber bullying, it could lead to burly fine or imprisonment for six months or more.

    There are other laws like Computer Misuse Act, 1990 and various other legislations for dealing with it. In USA, the Central Legislation for Cyberbullying crimes is the Magna carta Cyber bullying Prevent Act, though there are different legislations in different states, Hawaii: As per the Law, if a student gets involved in the act of cyber bullying, A sampling of cyber bullying laws around the world he or she may be charged with $500 fine. [5]
Consequences of cyber bullying
The consequences of cyberbullying can be harsh. Amongst other victims i.e., all the people on the social media of all ages, children are the ultimate victims of this crime as they are the ones who are using the internet to its maximum ability. Therefore, such children should be safeguarded from the negative side of the same.

These disrespectful, demeaning and hatred or threatening words/audio/video that are posted on such online platforms affects the mental stability, mental peace and mental health of the children. Such children as we can call them victims of cyberbullying react in different ways to this crime when it happens to them. Some of them commits suicide in the fear of facing the world, some change their schools and colleges with the similar fear of losing their self-esteem or reputation or there are families who move their residence from one locality to the other or from one city to the other to protect their reputation.

There are families who tell their children to not share this news of them being bullied on the online platform or any social media to anyone in public or they don't even allow their children to report such cases as then the case will come in notice of the public.

Parents, children and administrators can take steps to stop cyber bullying before it happens or becomes worse.

There are some of suggestive measures that can be adopted:
  1. It is the duty of parents to tell their children not to disclose any personal information such as name, address, phone numbers, or pictures at any cost.
  2. Advising children to come up to their parents if they receive any message that makes them uncomfortable.
  3. Document the situation and keep a detailed record as evidence.
  4. Should not delete the bullying messages as they can be used as evidence.
  5. Parents should monitor the use of the internet by their children.

As we saw in the paper that cyberbullying is a crime which happens when a person writes, speaks, make gestures which contain hatred, jealousy, foul language and demeaning words or gestures through audio or video which has an impact on the reputation of the person and cause him stress and anxiety and may affect the mental peace and stability of the person against whom such words or gestures are directed.

The various types of cyberbullying were discussed. Cyber bullying has an impact on every aspect of society. Campaigns, laws, administrative initiatives in schools, and other activities to identify and eliminate cyber bullying are a solid place to start when trying to solve this issue. Promoting the wise use of technology will produce positive outcomes.

We should consider banning the bully and formally reporting their behaviour on the social media platform if the bullying is occurring there. Social media firms have a responsibility to protect their users. To demonstrate what has been happening, it can be useful to gather documentation, such as screenshots of social media posts and text conversation.

  3. The Information Technology Act, 2000, No. 21, Acts of Parliament, 2000 (India)
  4. The Indian Penal Code, 1860
Written By: Prerna Mishra, BBA LLB 3rd Year - New Law College

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