Over 80% of teens in the UAE use mobile phones on a regular basis and face the risk of cyberbullying, a study shows. Image Credit: Photo Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Ajman: Are you or your children victims of cyberbullying?

Here is how you can report and avoid the menace.

While over 60 per cent of three to four-year-old children in the UAE have smartphones, up to 23 per cent of them have visited spam sites, said Dr. Anwar Hamim Bin Saleem, General Manager, Higher Innovation Centre, as part of a workshop he presented in Ajman University (AU) on cyberbullying.

“Over 80% of teens in the UAE use mobile phones on a regular basis and face the risk of cyberbullying,” he revealed.

Ajman seminar
Over 80% of teens in the UAE use mobile phones on a regular basis and face the risk of cyberbullying. Image Credit:

Quoting Kaspersky Lab, he said that the academic performance of 64 per cent of the students cyberbullied have been negatively affected. “They no more like to play online, and feel scared and insecure,” he quoted Kaspersky Lab.

Dr Bin Saleem said one in three or more students, age 12 to 15, suffer regular bullying worldwide. “In 2017, some 70 per cent of the children were cyberbullied in Malaysia, while the rate increased in Europe from 10 per cent in 2010 to 12 per cent in 2014.”

Cyberbullying or "cyberharassment" is a form of bullying or harassment using electronic means. It is also known as online bullying. It has become increasingly common, especially among teenagers.

Dr Abdulhaq Al Nuaimi, Vice-Chancellor for Communication and Community Affairs, said cyberbullying has become one of the big concerns to all schools, parents, and students. “It is the responsibility of all entities to enlighten the public about the hazards of this phenomenon and come up with the right solutions,” he added.

Warning, Dr Bin Saleem said cyberbullying victims develop less self-esteem and require more mental health services throughout life. “A child is bullied somewhere in the world every seven minutes,” he noted.

Bullying was blamed for the absence of around 160,000 children from schools in the States, according to the National Crime Prevention Council, US, he disclosed. “Bullying victims are two to nine times more likely to think about committing suicide.”

Bullying is the third main reason for youth deaths which amount to 4,400 deaths every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US, Dr Bin Saleem said. “At least half of youth suicides are associated with bullying in Britain.”

What the UAE law says

As per Article 21 of the UAE Federal Decree Law 5/2012, cybercrimes are punishable by a jail term of at least six months and/or a fine not less than Dh150,000 and not exceeding Dh500,000, he explained.

All types of cyberbullying or cybercrimes should be reported to police on 999, or online at www.ecrime.ae, 80012, or Interior Ministry toll free number 116111.

Teachers and educators should be trained to ensure children digital safety, he urged. “Parents should talk and listen more to their children, and develop their awareness about such cybercrimes,” he added.

What is cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behaviour.

Nine ways to handle cyberbullying

1. Never respond

According Do not reply to anything that has been said or retaliate by doing the same thing back. Saying something nasty back or posting something humiliating in revenge may make matters worse or even get you into trouble.

2. Screenshot

If you can, take a screenshot of anything that you think could be cyberbullying and keep a record of it on your computer.

3. Block and report

Most online platforms have this function, make sure you block and report the offending users to the appropriate social media platform. Or talk to us about removing it!

4. Talk about it

You may not feel it at the time, but cyberbullying affects you in many different ways. You are not alone. Talking to somebody about bullying not only helps you seek support but it documents evidence and will take a huge weight from your shoulders.

Assess how serious the cyberbullying is. If it is light name-calling from somebody that you don’t know, it may just be easier to just report and block that user.

6. Report it

If you are experiencing cyberbullying from somebody you go to school or college with, report it to a teacher. If somebody is threatening you, giving out your personal information or making you fear for your safety, contact the Police or an adult as soon as you can.

7. Be private

We recommend that you keep your social media privacy settings high and do not connect with anybody who you do not know offline. You wouldn’t talk to random people on the street, so why do it online?

People may not always be who they say they are and you could be putting you and those that you care about the most at risk. Learn about catfishing here.

8. Talk to them

Sometimes it may be appropriate to request that a teacher or responsible adult hosts a mediation between you and the person who is bullying you online if they go to the same school or college as you. A mediation can be scary but is often incredibly powerful. It is essentially a face-to-face conversation between you and the person bullying you in a controlled, equal environment. This is a proactive and effective way to deal with online bullying.

9. Sympathise.

Always remember that happy and secure people do not bully others. People who bully are going through a difficult time themselves and will often need a lot of help and support. (Source:ditchthelabel)

How to prevent cyberbullying

A child may be involved in cyberbullying in several ways. A child can be bullied, bully others, or witness bullying. Parents, teachers, and other adults may not be aware of all the digital media and apps that a child is using. The more digital platforms that a child uses, the more opportunities there are for being exposed to potential cyberbullying.

Warning signs of child cyberbulying

Many of the warning signs that cyberbullying is occurring happen around a child’s use of their device. Some of the warning signs that a child may be involved in cyberbullying are:

Noticeable increases or decreases in device use, including texting.

A child exhibits emotional responses (laughter, anger, upset) to what is happening on their device.

A child hides their screen or device when others are near, and avoids discussion about what they are doing on their device.

Social media accounts are shut down or new ones appear.

A child starts to avoid social situations, even those that were enjoyed in the past.

A child becomes withdrawn or depressed, or loses interest in people and activities.

(source: stopbullying)