Sonia Singhal, a Dubai-based counselling psychologist. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Cyberbullying can have a negative impact on a person. Sonia Singhal, a Dubai-based counselling psychologist, says it can lead to a decrease in self-esteem and self-confidence.

She said: “It can make a person feel embarrassed, humiliated and worthless. It can lead to anxiety and depression and cause a person to stop wanting to go to school or work, to lose interest in interacting with others, or to become isolated and withdrawn. In the most extreme cases, cyberbullying can lead to self-harming behaviours and suicidal feelings. It can even cause feelings of hatred and anger and lead to violence against others.”

When asked how the person being bullied should react, Singhal said: “Although it may be difficult not to respond or retaliate, it is always better to ignore cyberbullying. A cyberbully is looking for attention and giving them a response only feeds this need and makes them feel more powerful. By ignoring the bully, you are taking away their power to cause you emotional harm.

“If you are being bullied, it is best to ignore it, inform a parent, teacher or trusted adult and cut off communication with that person if you can. Do not feel ashamed of the emotional impact the bully may have on you and do not hesitate to seek support.”

As far as children are concerned, Singhal says parents can play a big role in helping them overcome it.

She said: “If your child is being bullied, encourage them to ignore it, to talk about their feelings, to cut off communication with the bully and help them understand that the bully does not define who they are. Report the bullying to the school and the police if it continues or becomes worse. Teenagers often do not report bullying because they do not want to lose their mobile phones or computers. Avoid taking these away and instead monitor bullying by installing parental controls or by agreeing on shared access to their technologic devices.”

Carey Kirk, another Dubai-based counselling psychologist, agreed.

She said: “If a child, teen or adult is being cyberbullied, it is important to not respond to messages. This can give the bullies more ammunition to work with and can escalate the situation. Instead, it is important to report bullying messages to an adult or the online platform where the bullying is taking place, such as Facebook or Instagram. All social media platforms have community codes and take violations of these codes seriously.

“When being bullied, it is important to keep a record of the messages sent so that these can act as evidence when a complaint to the social media site or the police is made. Cyberbullying is taken seriously by the authorities in the UAE and any continual harassment or threats to a person’s life should be reported to the police.

“If your child is being cyberbullied, it is important to listen to them and to acknowledge and validate their pain. We then need to try to understand the scope of the problem and openly discuss ways in which you can deal with the situation together. Do not wait to see if the problem goes away.”