With millions of people adding every year, today, India has one of the highest number of internet users, more than the total population of many countries in the world. In rural India nearly half of the population have access to digital services despite connectivity boom has happened in the last decade that has impacted the life of even rural populations significantly. With it, especially for children and adolescents who contribute a significant number of users, came new challenges of online child exploitation.
There has been a noticeable rise in cyberbullying in India since the Covid-19 epidemic. Cyberbullying has increased by many folds in India with the swift adaption on the digital technology and emergence of digital communication platforms, particularly with the expansion of online learning, remote working, and social media usage. People had to stay indoors and extensively rely on digital communication networks during the lockdown measures followed after the onset of the pandemic.
India has the highest rate of cyberbullying worldwide, at over 85% of children reporting it. The poll has also found that Indian children reported cyberbullying someone twice as often as children worldwide. In India, 46% of children reported cyberbullying a stranger, compared to 17% globally, while 48% reported cyberbullying they know, compared to 21% of children in other nations. Spreading false rumours (39%), being excluded from chats or groups (35%), and name-calling (34 per cent) were the top three types of cyberbullying reported in India.
In current situation, to fight back the rapidly growing cyberbullying behaviour, it is important to understand context and the entire ecosystem of cyberbullying and potential risks associated with it. The bigger question is, what is cyberbullying and how it can affect any children. When someone is harassed, threatened, or harmed through a digital medium, this is known as cyberbullying. It can manifest itself in a number of ways, including by sending unpleasant messages, publishing humiliating comments, disclosing personal information, and circulating rumours. Cyberbullying is more difficult to recognise and prevent since it can occur anytime, anyplace, and to anybody, unlike conventional bullying. Cyberbullying against children can have devastating repercussions, resulting to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and in severe cases, even suicide. Children who are the victims of cyberbullying could feel alone, hopeless and powerless, which would make them uninterested in school and other activities. Also, it may have an impact on their social abilities and connections, making it more difficult for them to make new friends and keep up with old ones.
The high rate of cyberbullying in India is partially due to a lack of knowledge and instruction regarding online safety. Many children and adolescents aren’t aware of the dangers of talking to strangers online or disclosing personal information online. Also, there is a paucity of knowledge regarding how cyberbullying affects both the victim and the offender.
To combat cyberbullying in India, there are several steps that can be taken. First and foremost, education and awareness are key to addressing cyberbullying in India. Schools and colleges can play an important role in educating students about cyberbullying and its consequences.
We can fight to stop cyberbullying and create a safer online environment by educating individuals about the risks of cyberbullying, encouraging responsible technology usages, empowering bystanders, and supporting mental health. Secondly, parents also need to be aware of the issue and monitor their children’s online activities to prevent them from becoming victims or perpetrators of cyberbullying. Parents can contribute to the creation of a safer online environment for their children and others by educating their children about cyberbullying, encouraging responsible internet use, fostering open communication, promoting empathy and kindness, and being supportive of their child. Thirdly, social media platforms can also take steps to address cyberbullying. They can implement stricter policies and guidelines to prevent cyberbullying, such as banning fake profiles and providing tools to report cyberbullying. They can also work with law enforcement agencies to identify cyberbullies and take appropriate action against them. Social media sites can employ artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to find and delete cyberbullying content before it spreads. With the aid of this technology, cyberbullying behaviour patterns can be recognised, and steps can be taken to stop it from getting worse. Lastly, Finally, there needs to be greater collaboration between government, civil society, and the private sector to address cyberbullying in India. This can include measures to enhance digital literacy, assistance to victims of cyberbullying, and attempts to establish a safer and more inclusive online environment.
The Indian government has recognized the problem of cyberbullying and has taken steps to address it. The Ministry of Home Affairs launched the Cyber Crime Prevention Against Women and Children (CCPWC) initiative, which aims to provide a safe and secure online environment for children. The initiative provides a helpline and a portal where children can anonymously report cyberbullying. The Ministry of Home Affairs has also launched National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal to enable citizens to report cybercrimes, including cyberbullying, and receive prompt action.
Although, the government has made some progress, there is still plenty that can be done to safeguard Indian children from cyberbullying. It is crucial to raise awareness of the problem and make sure that parents, educators, and other key players have the information they need to shield children from online predators. Also, it is crucial to guarantee that the people handling the issue are well informed and equipped and the legal system is strong enough to handle cases in an efficient manner. Finally, in order to create solutions that effectively shield children from online predators, government, civil society, and technological businesses need to work in coherence and synergistically