Cyber bullying is the use of electronic means of communication in a negative manner to abuse, harass, defame, intimidate or threaten another person. Although cyber bullying is most commonly associated with young people as a recent study indicates that almost two third of kids experience cyber bullying before the age of 18 but it is not uncommon with adults and even some celebrities are known to have experienced it. Cyber bullying takes many forms such as embarrassing pictures of you being posted online without your permission, nasty comments about you being placed online, passing humiliating comments or responses to your Facebook posts or updates, being excluded from chat groups, fake profiles about you being created and deliberately posted to harm your image, negative or abusive text messages, offensive conversations during online gaming, posting rumours or gossips about you online etc. A cyber bully may be a person that is well known to the victim or may be an anonymous person engaged by the real adversary to do the job. This later scenario is called a “digital-pile on”.
As digital technology and social media networks continue to make massive impact on society, the legislative departments of governments all over the world are working hard to bridge the gap between existing legislature and new forms of crime that are associated with this phenomenon. In the United Kingdom, there are a few laws that specifically deal with cyber bullying but there are laws that are applicable to cases of cyber bullying as they are relevant to the specific instance. These include The Malicious Communications Act 1988, The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, The Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Communications Act 2003, and the Defamation Act 2013. A crime of cyber bullying can attract strict legal consequences that includes jail term.
Compared to traditional bullying cyber bullies can remain anonymous through a variety of online options such as the use of temporary e mail accounts, use of pseudonyms in chat forums etc. This makes it easy for them to throw off the traditional social constraints associated with normative behaviour. The fact that a victim is usually always with his mobile phone makes it difficult to get away from cyber bullies. Cyber bullying is more pervasive than traditional forms of bullying. An individual can cut off or protect himself from some forms or sources of cyber bullying by putting some measures in place. These measures include changing cell phone lines and placing filters in e-mail accounts. However, other forms such as posting embarrassing, defaming or intimidating pictures and information online cannot be easily dealt with. Cyber bullying if unchecked can have devastating effects on victims. Kids can be helped by being encouraged never to respond, take screenshots of postings, block and report cases and talk about it with sympathetic ears.
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