Cyberbullying and its effects on children

Cyberbullying and its effects on children

Cyberbullying and its effects on children

With the tremendous development of technology, especially the social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp Twitter, Instagram…etc., and its rapid spread among children and teenagers around the world, the rate of cyberbullying has increased accordingly, especially with the emergence of diverse applications constantly and rapidly.

This is to the extent that the online abuse of children and teenagers has become an easy matter, as the majority of children carry smartphones containing all new apps that enable them to receive and send messages.

Definition of cyberbullying

Bullying is defined in the dictionary as the abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, it is an imitation of the bull in its nature and ferocity. Bullying is aggressive conduct towards a person who is younger or lesser powerful; it is to harm, intimidate or insult a person and to force him/her to do something against his/her will. In psychology, it is a form of aggressive behavior when someone intentionally and repeatedly causes discomfort to another person, whether physically or verbally with words or by other acts, with the inability of the person who is bullied to defend himself/herself.

Therefore, cyberbullying is the exploitation of the Internet and the related technologies to deliberately, repeatedly, and aggressively harms other people by using the wide range of above-mentioned social media Apps and other web tools.

The ruling of bullying in Islam

Allah, the Exalted, prohibited bullying as He Says (what means): {O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them, nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name [i.e., mention] of disobedience after [one's] faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the wrongdoers} [Quran 49:11]

Ibn Katheer in his explanation of this Ayah (Quran verse) said that Allah, the Exalted, has prohibited disdain and mockery of people due to disease, poverty, or any different or unfamiliar trait. Maybe the person who has been ridiculed is in a greater position for Allah than the person who ridiculed him/her and maybe he is more loved by Allah than the person who has bullied him. 

Regarding the Saying of Allah (which means): {And do not insult one another} Ibn Katheer explained that it means do not use gestures that may imply insult for them either by a look, action, or words.

Allah, the Exalted, Says (what means): {and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames} which means do not use offensive nicknames to demean people so they become sad when they hear them.

Also, the Sunnah is full of texts that show that the basic quality of a Muslim is to avoid harming others, and due to the importance of this quality, the Sunnah made it as an identification of a Muslim so that this quality shall be inseparable from him, and he shall be inseparable from it; otherwise, he/she will not deserve to be described as a Muslim.  'Abdullah Ibn 'Amr Ibn Al-'as  may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him reported that the Prophet Muhamed  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) said: “As for the [true] Muslim, it is he who avoids harming Muslims with his tongue and hands.  Besides, Abu Moosa  may  Allah  be  pleased  with  him narrated “Some people asked the Messenger of Allah  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention )” Whose Islam is the best (i.e., who is a very good Muslim)?” He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) replied, “One who avoids harming the Muslims with his tongue and hands.

To conclude, Islam has completely forbidden mockery which has taken another name “bullying”.

How do I know that my kid is being cyberbullied?

Here are some signs that indicate that the child is being cyberbullied.

-       Desire to stop using phone or computer.

-       Feeling anxious or expecting to get an instant or text messages.

-       Spending more time than usual in their room and refusing to sit at one table with his/her family.

-       Obvious changes in his/her behavior such as tension or excessive attachment to family.

-       Change in his/her daily habit, such as refusing to eat in a particular place, or walking through a particular route.

-       The sudden drop in his/her level of schooling, and difficulty in concentration.

-       Complaining about things that he/she was not paying attention to or complaining about before, as something in his appearance, name, or about a certain place.

-       Being silent for long times, just showing approval of a speaker’s speech whether it is true or wrong.

-       Giving up his/her pocket money and games to one of his/her brothers constantly.

-       Stuttering when talking, and judging himself/herself as a failure.

-       Bruises appear in his/her body without knowing the cause or seeing his/her books are torn and tools shattered without making a complaint.

Forms and methods of cyberbullying

There are many forms of cyberbullying that we will review together in the following points.

-         Hateful messages are sent to the kid!

-         Starting rumors and lies about the bullied person.

-         Mocking and sending painful and racist messages through comments via social media platforms.

-         Supporting those comments is also considered bullying.

-         Threatening to post a photo, video, or private conversation.

-         Mocking of someone’s appearance, color, religion, culture, or inability to move.

-         Using the victim's identity through social media sites in order to distort their public image.

-         Sending immoral photos or videos to the person who is being bullied.

-         The bully steals the victim's personal accounts and uses them for unacceptable and immoral purposes, to intrude into his/her privacy and personal life.

-        Bullying is also through impersonation, where the bully pretends to be the victim and deludes others that he is that person; for example, he steals the password of his e-mail or social media account or takes the cell phone from him without him realizing to send abusive text messages or inappropriate photos from the victim's account so that others think he is the sender.

-      There is another type of cyberbullying; when a bully relies on isolating and marginalizing a victim; expelling him from an activity or group on the Internet, or inviting all his Facebook friends except the victim, and tells the victim that he has excluded him because he does not want him to be in his group because he is boring and completely unimportant.

How do we protect our children from cyberbullying?

1.   The child must be encouraged to express his/her psychological and social problems amicably to the parents. He/she shall be taught how to solve the problems and to turn to the family without fear or hesitation from any reaction.

2.   Controlling the time of using electronic devices is a very important and essential issue for the child.

3.   The child must be monitored when using electronic devices and make sure that he/she uses useful and harmless applications to his/her psychological behavior.

4.   Teach the child to ignore people with bad behavior.

5.   The role of the family is to encourage the child to make friends and social relations so that his/her self-confidence will be improved.

6.   The child shall not publish any images of his/her own or information about him/her so that they are not used by bullies.

7.   If the parents know that their children are being bullied, they have to embrace their children without scolding them, so they won't have any psychological problems later.

8.   Consult specialists if necessary; in order to preserve your kid's psychological balance.

Recommendations to limit the phenomenon of bullying

Eliminating bullying requires a proper social upbringing of children from an early age, as well as the role of the media in addressing this unacceptable phenomenon, together with the role of the school, university, and all institutions within the State to raise awareness among people and draw their attention to the enormity of this act. What needs to be done can be summarized as follows:

-         Raising children on religious influence and teaching them the proper Islamic behavior.

-         Constant monitoring of teenagers’ behavior in schools.

-         Holding cultural seminars in universities.

-         Constant parents’ monitoring of children during their Internet browsing and social media activities.

-         The need to observe students at all levels of education with help of psychologists and sociologists.

-         Advising the bully to go to a psychiatrist to get rid of this problem.

-         Governments must establish strict laws for anyone who practices bullying against others in all its forms.

-         Allowing human rights organizations and various institutions to disseminate awareness-raising programs for them at different age ranges, for their convenience.

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