Awino has missed one week of school. She refuses to leave the house, and her mother cannot understand what is wrong with her. Finally, she breaks down and explains to her mother that some of her friends have insulted her on her class Whatsapp group. They have told lies about her, and now everyone believes she is a bad person. Awino’s mother does not know what to do. She encourages Awino to speak to her youth club leader and mentor about the issue.
Cyber bullying is “bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets”. It is the “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cellphones, and other electronic devices.” Essentially, it is the use of electronic communication to mirror the way a person would be bullied in real life, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.
Youth workers may often lack awareness of the scope of the reality of cyberbullying that young women and girls are exposed to or even to the different forms it may take. Here are some ways in which it happens, but please note that the words our young people in Nairobi, Lagos, Johannesburg or elsewhere use may be different:
- Flaming – Online fights, name-calling, and similar actions.
- Disparaging – Posts or messages that target someone. This could include posts targeting someone based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
- Exclusion – Leaving someone out of a game or group chat, or any other social media activity.
- Outing – Sharing someone’s secrets or private information.
- Trickery – Tricking someone into telling you something private and then outing them.
- Impersonation – Pretending to be someone you are not. Also known as Catfishing. It’s important to realise that sometimes this leads young people to send personal photos and information to people, which can be used to extort them and place them in great danger.
- Harassment – Repeatedly sending malicious messages.
- Cyberstalking – Continuously harassing and disparaging including threats of physical harm.
- Have you ever been in Pauline’s situation? How would you have helped Awino and her mother through this crisis?
- Does your youth club have a bullying policy? Do the schools that they attend? Does this include cyber-bullying?
- Do you know the slang used by young people where you work to talk about cyberbullying?
- Do I encourage the youth I work with to be kind on social media?
- Do I know how to handle cyberbullying? Where could I find the resources for this?
You might also be interested in
- Cyberbullying Warning Signs (cyberbullying.org)
- Cyberbullying: What is it and how to stop it | UNICEF (unicef.org)