Delhi Govt Directs Schools to Sensitize Students, Parents About Cyberbullying
The Delhi government has directed schools in the national capital to sensitize parents and students about cyberbullying and safe usage of the internet, in a bid to bolster “safe learning during lockdown,” with cases of cyberbullying having increased during the pandemic.
“The internet spaces are growing and multiplying and data security, privacy and protection is inadequate to keep a check on this… it is imperative to make children and their parents aware about the safe use of internet [sic],” states the Directorate of Education’s (DoE) letter to public and private schools in Delhi, urging them to share a set of guidelines developed by the NCERT and the UNESCO with students and their guardians.
Titled “Safe Online Learning in the Times of Covid19,” these guidelines explain what cyberbullying looks like, and contain a list of “do’s and don’ts” to enable students to navigate the internet safely. They also briefly mention existing Indian laws that could protect children against cyberbullying and provides them with helpline numbers to report instances of abuse.
“Heads of all schools are directed to share this information with teachers, students and parents through SMS or WhatsApp groups or by any other possible means which are being used to reach out to children and parents [sic],” the letter by the DoE states.
The directive is the government’s response to the spike in cyberbullying — globally and in India — since learning shifted online amid school closures and social distancing measures. According to India-focused research amid the pandemic, the most prominent form of cyberbullying was stalking (71.21%), followed by posting derogatory comments (64.39%), leaking pictures, or videos online (41.67%), and harassing (21.97%).
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“Under the shadow of Covid19, the lives of millions of children have temporarily shrunk to just their homes and their screens. We must help them navigate this new reality,” Henrietta Fore, executive director of the UNICEF, had said earlier during the pandemic.
Even before the pandemic, India was already known to be one of the worst countries for cyber-security. A 2019 report, which ranked 60 countries on the basis of their cyber-security — from least secure to most — pegged India at 15, far below the average. Pre-lockdown research also suggests that vulnerability to cyberbullying in adolescents rises with an increase in internet use, which increased exponentially under lockdown with classes shifting online.
“One of the biggest problems in reporting cyberbullying is that a large number of vulnerable victims don’t even recognize that what is happening to them is bullying,” Nishant Shah, professor at the Institute of Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media at the Leuphana University in Germany, told Scroll last year. In fact, a March 2020 study conducted by Child Rights and You (CRY) had found that while one out of 10 adolescents in the Delhi-National Capital Region had experienced cyberbullying, half of them had not reported it to their teachers and guardians — or even to the social media platforms, where the abuse occurred.
At this juncture, educating children about what cyberbullying means, and teaching them how to report it could not only empower them to navigate online spaces more safely, but also curb online bullying by enabling them to report perpetrators. At present, the India-focused study found that only 4.55% of the victims of cyberbullying took legal action against their bullies. In addition, sensitizing parents alongside students can add another layer of security — helping children communicate issues they may face online more effectively with their guardians.
“It is important that everyone is aware of the risks that could be associated with being connected to internet… In addition, the students need to be warned against these risks and it is extremely important for us to ensure that every possible step is taken towards giving our children safe spaces to learn that keep their innocence and cater to their curiosity in a non-harmful way,” the DoE’s letter read.