’CONFESSIONS’ A CONCERN FOR MANY
DANIE VAN DER LITH
African News Agency
A DARK and deadly trend has emerged and could end up being devastating. If I think back to the days when I was a child, things were just easier. We had more freedom, we played outside, we played cricket in the streets with our neighbours, and we actually talked to each other face to face because we didn’t have the World Wide Web at our fingertips. If you had beef with someone, you would tell them to their face, fight, make friends, and get on with it. But things have drastically changed over the years. And for several parents and pupils from several prominent schools in Kimberley, this change has become a very dark and disturbing reality. The considerable increase over the past few years in the use of mobile phones, text messaging, e-mails, chat rooms, and social networks have altered our social environments and has in many ways directed our social interactions. Comparative data suggest that South Africans are one of the highest users of mobile technology and mobile social networking on the continent. Young people, who are known to acquire technological skills more rapidly than adults, lead the way in the daily use of information and communication technologies (ICTS) But with great technology comes great responsibility, and when that technology is abused, people can get hurt and lives can be destroyed. Several concerns have been raised about accounts that have been created on social media platforms where pupils badmouth and insult each other. One such damaging account is an Instagram page called Kimberley_confession2.0 The account was created by a faceless person, and anybody can post anything about anybody on that page without any consequences to the person who created that account, not realising the emotional damage it can cause a person who is mentioned in one of those posts. Pupils from several high schools in Kimberley as well as primary school learners are now using this account to insult, embarrass and defame each other. According to sources, police and lawyers are now stepping in to try and put an end to this. Young people are living their lives online. Social pages like Facebook and Instagram are just two of many that are being used by the social culture users out there, and if you are not part of the social culture, then you are a nobody. You need a certain number of followers and likes to be able to be one of the cool kids, and if you don't fall under that category, well, then you are invisible. Kids are so quick to use social media to bash each other regarding their everyday lives, and without thinking about what they are doing, they are turning themselves into emotional bullies. Bullying is taking place all around the country and the effects are felt by all, but the most vulnerable in our society are our children, and cyberbullying is taking its toll on our youth. CYBERBULLYING The often uncensored and unmonitored nature of the cyber environment can expose young people to pornography, violence, harmful information, sexual predators, and disturbing images and, more alarmingly, has paved the way for new forms of aggression and victimisation to be perpetrated against the country’s child and youth population. Cyberbullying, cyberviolence, cyberaggression, internet bullying, electronic bullying, internet harassment, or online harassment are terms used to refer to violence and aggression perpetrated through ICTS. Although studies make use of differing terms, these concepts generally refer to any discomfort or harm that is intentionally and repeatedly inflicted on a specific person or group. These cruel acts may include the sending of harassing e-mails or instant messages, posting obscene, insulting, and slanderous messages on online bulletin boards or social networking sites, or developing web pages to promote and disseminate defamatory content. Cyberbullying can have multiple adverse effects on victims, including social anxiety (37%), depression (36%), suicidal thoughts (24%), self-harm (23%), and skipping classes (21%). Others include developing antisocial behaviour (12%), developing eating disorders (10%), and running away from home (10%). Teen victims are highly likely to develop mental health, social, and behavioural issues in school. 64% of cyberbullying victims claim that it negatively impacts how they learn and feel secure at school. Furthermore, 59% of victims experience mental health problems. In addition, 29% of parents said that their children were depressed for a time after a cyberbullying attack. Besides, victims of cyberbullying are twice more likely to attempt suicide and by posting things on an account without thinking, you could be the reason for the death of a person and not even know about it. How can parents help their children avoid cyberbullying? Just drop your guard a bit and think about this. Your child might not be being bullied, however, he might just be one of the bullies, and as parents, we should always keep an open mind and not think that my child will never do such a thing. Parents are the first line of defence. Consider limiting time spent on social media, where most cyberbullying occurs. Parents can also install parental monitoring software on their children’s devices to keep track of what they do online and block content accordingly. Alternatively, parents can sign up for the same social networks as their children and add them as friends, which helps to rein in what kids post and allows parents to keep an eye on them from a distance. But more importantly, parents should speak to their children about cyberbullying, and the effect it can have on someone. So before you post something about someone, think, think about the consequences it could have on that person’s life, especially a young person. The damage you are possibly going to do to that person could be life-changing, and always remember that sticks and stones may break their bones, but words will destroy lives.