Some social media platforms that may be used for cyber bullying: Picture: Pexels
Some social media platforms that may be used for cyber bullying: Picture: Pexels

Tips to deal with cyberbullying

By Shanice Naidoo Time of article published Jan 9, 2021

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Cape Town - “Cyberbullying does not allow the victim to get away from it, it will always be there. It is harder to escape it because you pick up your phone and it’s there. People live on their phones and some on social media too,” said Genevieve da Silva, child psychologist, ahead of schools opening.

She says bullying takes different forms and the impact is that the victim feels like their power has been taken away from them, they feel powerless.

“That is why the impact is so deep. It’s an attack on the person and who they are and their identity,” said Da Silva.

The SAPS says cyberbullying occurs when a child or teen uses the internet, emails, text messages, instant messaging, social media websites, online forums, chat rooms or other digital technology to harass, threaten or humiliate another child or teen.

“Cyberbullies come in all shapes and sizes. Almost anyone with an internet connection or cellphone can cyberbully someone else, often without having to reveal their true identity. Cyberbullies can torment their victims 24 hours a day and the bullying can follow the victim anywhere so that no place, not even home, ever feels safe, and with a few clicks, the humiliation can be witnessed by hundreds or even thousands of people online,” said the SAPS.

South Africa has no legislation specific to cyberbullying, however LegalWise said this does not mean that there are no consequences for cyberbullying. Victims of cyberbullying can rely on remedies offered by criminal and/or civil law.

Their website says depending on the nature of the acts committed by the perpetrator, he/she can be criminally charged with crimen injuria (this refers to where the dignity of the victim is injured); sexual exploitation and grooming (threatening someone to obtain something from him/her, such as pornographic images); and criminal defamation, which is the intentional and unlawful publication of a matter concerning another person which damages his/her reputation, like posting lies about someone on social media for everyone to see.

If the cyberbully is a child, there are different criminal procedures that will be followed under the Child Justice Act. If the cyberbully is younger than 10, he/she does not have criminal capacity and cannot be found guilty of a criminal offence. However, he/she may face the consequences of his/her actions like counselling.

There are also civil remedies available to the victim, says Legal Wise. A protection order can be obtained in terms of the Protection from Harassment Act against the cyberbully at a Magistrate’s Court.

The SAPS has on its website offered some tips for children or teens dealing with cyber bullying:

Do not respond. If someone bullies you, remember that your reaction is usually exactly what the bully wants. It gives him or her power over you. Do not retaliate. Responding with similar threats reinforces the bully’s behaviour. Help avoid a whole cycle of aggression. Save the evidence. Online messages can usually be captured, saved and shown to someone who can help. Save evidence even if it is minor. Cyberbullying can escalate. Block the bully. Use preferences or privacy tools to block the person. If it happens while you are chatting, leave the “room”. Report any abusive comments to the social media website administrators. Reach out for help. Talk to a friend or a trusted adult who can help.

Your child may be the victim of cyberbullying if he or she becomes sad, angry or distressed during or after using the internet or a cellphone; appears anxious when receiving a text or email, or having been on social media websites; avoids discussions or is secretive about computer or cellphone activities; withdraws from family, friends and activities they previously enjoyed; refuses to go to school or to specific classes; or avoids group activities; and illustrate changes in mood, behaviour, sleep, appetite, or shows signs of depression or anxiety.

Weekend Argus

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