News / Opinion
With cyberbullying occurring in both traditional and online school settings, there has never been a better time to discuss its impact on children.
With such experiences having far-reaching psychosocial consequences, we must address this issue with haste, so our future leaders responsibly enter a growing digital economy.
According to Ipsos, pre-pandemic, 54% of parents in SA knew of a child experiencing cyberbullying and these figures are likely to rise with the notable conversion to digital mediums.
While the pandemic may have increased the uptake of digital life, there is no evidence this trend will be subsidingsoon.
People have now had a taste of how convenient and effective online life can be – and the increased interest in onlineschools is testament to this.
Youngsters are often unaware of the psychological harm of bullying and as cyberbullying has few consequences, they see no need to quit. Some educational psychologists note that cyberbullying is often more harmful than traditional bullying, since attacks can occur 24/7 and through various channels with abusers masking their identities by creating fake profiles.
This can lead to fear, mistrust, paranoia and anxiety – all of which can wreak havoc on academic performance, relationships and communication with parents and instructors.
In essence, cyberbullying is old-fashioned bullying which has been weaponised by digital technology.
We must teach our children the core values of self-respect, respect for others, manners, and courtesy; encouraging them to treat others the way we would like to be treated – offline or online.
When looking at cyberbullying, it is important to know who needs to take ownership of this issue.
Is it the school, the parents or the children?
In unregulated spaces, such as social media, the lines are blurred. However, SA recently finalised the Cybercrimes Act 19 of 2020, which is regarded as a significant milestone for online harassment.
It’s crucial to note that children can still face the consequences of their cybercrimes as part of the Child Justice Act 75 of 2008, which regulates how children are dealt with when accused and what consequences they face.
Therefore, minors can be officially punished for their online actions by law, so it’s essential they understand the consequences of their online behaviour and their options if it arises.
All schools in SA must review their bullying and harassment policies to include online and cyberbullying in its various forms.
Online schools must have comprehensive policies and methodologies in place to ensure pupils, teachers and parents are equipped to confront this issue effectively.
We must empower pupils to navigate this tumultuous online world while encouraging digital kindness.
The main goal of any school should be to develop ethical, global citizens who are responsibly integrated into offline and online society with the ability to confidently navigate the rapidly evolving digital universe.
– Cook is an education expert and chief operating officer at Teneo Online School