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A talk about cyberbullying and bullying

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Law For All defines bullying as:

Any abuse of actual or perceived power that targets minors (anyone under 18 in South Africa). Bullying includes physical attacks, purposeful alienation, spreading false rumours, verbal abuse, and various forms of emotional mistreatment. It also consists of any form of cyberbullying as well.

It is important to state that bullying isn’t necessarily limited to minors; anyone can experience or perpetuate it. While bullying isn’t a new phenomenon, it has transcended distance, and proximity is no longer a factor. With the rise of cyberbullying and social media, the need to address this issue has become more critical. So, how does one advocate for a safe and inclusive online environment?

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying refers to the use of digital communication tools, such as social media, text messages, emails, or online platforms, to harass, intimidate, or harm others. It can take various forms, including spreading rumors, posting hurtful comments or images, impersonating someone else online, or repeatedly sending offensive messages.

Unlike traditional bullying, which often occurs face-to-face, cyberbullying can reach a larger audience quickly and may be harder to escape from since it can happen anytime and anywhere with internet access. Victims of cyberbullying may experience emotional distress, anxiety, and depression, and in severe cases, it can even lead to self-harm or suicide.

Cyberbullying is a serious issue that can affect people of all ages, but it is particularly prevalent among children and teenagers due to their high use of social media and technology. It’s essential to raise awareness about cyberbullying, educate individuals about its harmful effects, and promote positive online behavior and digital citizenship to prevent and address instances of cyberbullying.

I asked the COO of the National Centre for Child Protection questions about anti-bullying and bullying prevention.

Please introduce yourself and the work that you do

I am Dayna Rowland; I have an Honours Degree in Psychology and furthered my studies in Counselling. My role at the National Centre for Child Protection is to ensure that all operations run smoothly and that everyone we encounter is happy with our services. We at the National Centre for Child Protection have the mission to be a voice for the voiceless, help the helpless, and give hope to the hopeless.

Is there a difference between anti-bullying and bullying prevention?

Anti-bullying efforts primarily focus on responding to bullying incidents as they arise; bullying prevention initiatives aim to create environments where bullying is less likely to occur by promoting positive behaviours.

Anti-bullying talks/initiatives/programmes and campaigns aimed at providing support to victims, educating bullies on their actions and the consequences thereof and getting them the help they may need in the hope they will change their ways and stop bullying. It focuses on responding to bullying behaviour after it has occurred.

Bullying prevention is more of a proactive approach. This focuses attention on addressing the root cause of bullying before it occurs.

How can organisations help in the fight against bullying?

This can be done by implementing a strong code of conduct that will not tolerate such behaviour and will deal with it accordingly. They can invite organisations such as ours to educate learners, employees, and parents. When bullies are educated on how their actions impact others, it sparks a sense of accountability and makes them less likely to act.

A bully needs help, this kind of behaviour stems from a dark place, a place where they have been traumatised and they have not overcome these struggles. The bully then targets others, and for this cycle of abuse to be broken, the bully must be made accountable for their actions, and they must seek the help that they need.

If you’d like to reach out or report an incident, you can call the National Hotline number to report bullying, and they will assist accordingly. The National Child Protection Hotline is 076 900 7151. You can read more about the free counseling service I Am Youth offers in partnership with the Child Protection Hotline.

Written by Kabelo Milton.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and not I Am Youth.

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