Cyberbulling, or bullying that takes place online and is not physical, takes many forms. Even celebrities can be cyberbullied and it may not be obvious to the general public.
However, it is important to point out even the not-so-obvious signs of cyberbullying.
Her cool conduct is probably what makes them envy her, or perhaps her endearing spirit and appearance intimidate them.
19-year-old Bongekile Ngantweni, a high school pupil from Qombolo in Centane in the Eastern Cape, explained how she was subjected to cyberbullying.
Her schoolmates created fake profiles to spread rumours about her, trolling her and calling her names on Facebook.
With a sombre look on her face, she says: “Sometimes they make all kinds of nasty comments – why I have lost weight and what not. There’s a lot that’s stressing me out. If it’s not my books, it’s the situation at home. They’re all just adding more to that.”
We need to talk about it
Cyberbullies literally go out of their way to destroy someone else’s confidence, but the experts say being a bully in itself is a problem.
Clinical psychologist Dr Zamo Mbele, who is a Tanzanian Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) board member, says it is important to pay attention to the underlying issues.
“People who bully others are often struggling with self-esteem issues themselves,” Mbele explains.
She believes cyberbullying is an issue that needs advocacy. People tend to be silent about it, especially those who have experienced it. After all, being bullied is often a traumatic experience that they want to forget about.
“To create awareness, people need to have the conversation about cyberbullying — either using social media platforms or with friends and family,” Mbele suggests.
Cyberbullying in TZ
Bongekile says that being cyberbullied has affected her psychologically. She doesn’t understand why these keyboard warriors are after her or what she has ever done to them.
She says their unpleasant comments have made it difficult for her to love herself and it adds to other personal problems.
She is not alone: In 2018, an IPSOS survey report on 28 countries found that Tanzania was among those with the highest cases of cyberbullying.
More than half (54%) of parents were aware that their child is being bullied. The report also showed that at least one in four adults have heard about cyberbullying.
Businessman Amos Onyango wrote Cyberbullying: A Crime against Humanity to address these issues.
Onyango lists what he has seen his friends and colleagues go through as a result of cyberbullying. These include depression, humiliation, low self-esteem, intimidation and anger.
Some even had the view that everyone else on social media is a nasty bully waiting to vilify them at any time, even without reason.
How do you stop cyberbullying?
“Social media platforms should collaborate with law enforcers, and have such posts used as evidence for possible prosecution and conviction. With consequences personalised, we can mitigate it,” Onyango says.
More often than not social media feuds are personal and stem from outside the social media space. Here are a few tips to help put a stop to it:
1. Don’t be a bystander
A lot of times when we witness a social media user uttering slander against someone we literally grab popcorn and watch the drama build up because it’s none of our business, right? No, that is wrong.
A lot can be done to ensure that it doesn’t go as far as name-calling, dragging names of loved ones into the feud, and making scary threats. We really have to call perpetrators out for their bad behaviour instead of having a laugh and siding with them.
2. Do not share gossip
Sometimes we all get tempted to feed the inner gossip. But pressing that share button will not do anyone justice – it’s totally unnecessary.
Sharing stuff that seeks to demean or defame others could get you into a lot of trouble, you could face a lawsuit. Stop it.
3. Report the post
Some posts can just be downright shaming and discriminating. If you feel like a post is a little offensive to a certain group of people, or it offends you, it may not deserve to be seen by the general public.
Report it so that Facebook or other social media platform can take it down. Some posts can indirectly discriminate, for example, if a person busts a nasty joke about the size of people’s bodies, that’s body shaming.
In Tanzania, the National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey reveals that 17.6% of teens have considered attempting suicide, while nearly one in three (31.5%) of teen suicide attempts required medical treatment. This study suggests that almost one in 10 (9.5%) of all unnatural teen deaths are partly caused by cyberbullying.
It can be difficult for teenagers like Bongekile to get the help they need, however.
“At first I tried talking to my friends about it. That helped, but the perpetrators wouldn’t stop. So talking about it was becoming pointless. It’s just what it is,” says Bongekile.
She says that her case was unfortunately not the first.
“There are a lot of catfishing and cyberbullying cases around here. No one really does anything about them. I myself have been keeping quiet.”
She says there are no counsellors at her school, so children may face emotional trauma without the safety net that a school guidance counsellor might be able to give.
Use social media wisely
Some parents react by wishing their children weren’t on social media, but proposing that they be taken down is not necessarily the answer.
Onyango explains: “Social media has brought about much more benefits than otherwise”.
“Interactions, communication, mobilisation for worthy causes, fight against injustices, sharing of ideas, business marketing and access have all been improved and bolstered by access to social media.
“With every good thing, there comes problems. We must therefore work on the problems. We have to face them, not run away from them.
“In choosing to get into social media or not, be clear what you want. If the purpose is wrong, you will have it rough. If it is good, you will fare well.
“Again, be clear of your intentions on the platforms and make it absolutely your business not to mind what trolls say. This makes them feel irrelevant and soon leave you alone. Responding to them encourages them.”
The post The many forms of cyberbullying: Bongekile’s story appeared first on Ajira - Nafasi za kazi Tanzania 2019.