Posted by: Djam Bakhshandegi
Citizenship and Partners in Learning Program Manager, Microsoft West, East, Central Africa and Indian Ocean Islands
For all the benefits that smartphones, computers and the web have to offer – especially for young people who have embraced digital technology and gained access to its benefits – there will always be those who misuse the technology.
Just like bullying in person, online bullying (also known as cyberbullying) is willful and is defined as repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices to others. Using technology to bully others potentially opens the door to 24-hour abuse often in the privacy of one’s home, perhaps made anonymously and potentially broadcast to a wider audience. Children and youth can use any type of Internet-connected device or services like texting and instant messaging, games, or social media to cyber bully others. Cyberbullies may even disclose their targets’ personal data publically or may create fake accounts, comments or sites posing as their victim to defame, discredit or ridicule them. It is also more difficult to escape from cyberbullies as they have access to their targets’ personal data.
According to a new Microsoft Global Youth Online Behavior Survey released today of 7600 children and youth between the ages of eight and 17, four in 10 have been bullied online. It’s no wonder that (54 percent) of children around the world, worry about becoming a target of online mean and cruel behavior. Compare that to Egypt where the concern drops to 52 percent, and in Morocco the number of children that worry about being bullied online is 45 percent.
In Egypt, only 27% (compared with a 25 country average of 37%) of the children and youth age 8 – 17 who responded to the survey say they have been subjected to a range of online activities that some may consider to be online bullying or to have adverse effects. In Morocco, however, 40% of the children and youth state that they have been subjected to such activities.
Parents and trusted adults need to get involved. Often due to the technological generation gap between parents and children, adults are unaware of the harm that is being caused to their children on a daily basis. Globally, less than a third (29%) said parents have talked to them about poor online behavior, and they failed to pinpoint one common step parents took to help address the problem. In Egypt the percentage of respondents who indicate that their parents discuss online risks with them is a mere 12% with 28% indicating that their parents monitor their use of computers. In Morocco on the other hand, 52% of respondents said their parents talk to them about online risks, and 61% stated that their parents monitor their computer usage.
Kids need to know that adults can and will help. And, parents and educators should make themselves available and offer support. To assist adults in recognizing and addressing the issue, Microsoft has created several new resources: an interactive online bullying quiz, our Digital Citizenship in Action Toolkit, and steps to help stop the cycle of online bullying which include:
Ask your kids to report bullying. Promise unconditional support. Reassure them that you won’t take away their phone, gaming, or computer privileges because of others’ behavior.
Ask kids to put themselves in others’ shoes. Encourage them to stand up for those they see being bullied:
Promote kindnessin your community
What to do if a child is involved in online bullying?
Whatever the issue facing children and youth online, Microsoft’s primary piece of guidance stands: parents, trusted adults, teachers, coaches, and counselors need to keep the lines of communication open.
The full Global Youth Online Behavior Survey report, along with the complete list of individual executive summaries for each country, is available here.