Where there's honey, there's bee, and where there's a playground there's bullies. As we get more and more wired up, our kids' playgrounds gets replaced by the new age cyber grounds and turn our playground bullies into a cyber bullies. Same behavioral traits, but this time, the bullies hide behind the computer screen or smartphone attacking from the comfort of their homes - they have now become transparent.
However, these cyber bullies are a far more dangerous breed with instant and round the clock access to their victims. They can cause more damage by casting a wider net and getting access to a more diverse audience through multiple social mediums causing long-term emotional and psychological harm.
Some known acts of cyber bullying include:
- Creating fake social media profiles on MySpace or Facebook
- Sending unwanted and insulting email and instant messages
- Hurtful Internet polling (Who's hot, who's not?)
- Stealing passwords
- Posting embarrassing or harmful images online
- Posting personal information including real name, address and telephone numbers online, etc.
The above list is in no way exhaustive because the cyber bullies are creative and imaginative and continually look for new avenues to achieve their malicious objectives.
Rates of teenage suicide, depression and incidences of self harm are on the rise in Asia Pacific due to such social cruelty, victimisation and humiliation that the youths are being subjected to in absence of any specific laws that penalise cyber bullying.
A study on rates of depression and suicidal thoughts conducted by Dr Lim, Dr Liew and Dr Fung of Woodbridge Hospital in Singapore found that out of the 600 children aged between 6-12 surveyed, 22 percent had suicidal tendencies (the asianparent.com - 25 September 2012). Although the rate of depression and suicide is lower in Singapore than other developed nations, it has been on the rise over the past 30 years making suicide the most common cause of death in Singapore youths apart from accidents.
It would be difficult to link the rate of suicide to cyber bullying, but it is still interesting to note that a recent survey on the state of cyber bullying done in Asia Pacific covering around 12,500 kids aged between eight and 17 years revealed that the highest rates of cyber bullying were reported in China and Singapore 58 percent with India closely following on 53 percent. Japan recorded 17 percent being the lowest level in Asia Pacific with Australia slightly below the global average of 37 percent. UAE reported the lowest levels globally with only seven percent.
In light of these alarming findings, it is not surprising that calls for tougher laws and penalties for cyber bullying are being called for by the lawmakers and education sector, not only in Singapore but also Asia Pacific wide. There are suggestions to introduce heavy fines and in more severe cases, imprisonment of up to four months with authorities pushing for up to a four-year sentence in Manila.
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