Fight cyber bullies with digital literacy: UAE experts
Dubai, March 23 : Psychiatrists in the UAE have called on parents to become digitally literate and keep themselves posted about online developments so as to be able to monitor their children's behaviour online and protect them from cyber bullying.
A concerned parent told the Gulf News daily how his daughter was recently subjected to bullying through her smartphone messenger.
"Someone sent her a message in which the contents were vile, but she pretended that she was married and said that she would inform her husband (about the bullying) but they knew her name and age," the parent said.
"This person then sent a broadcast message to all their contacts and this snowballed and soon she was getting 10 or so messages a minute with disgusting name calling."
The phone company told the parent to go to the police.
Psychiatrists have highlighted some of the tell-tale signs of children subjected to bullying.
They advise parents to be particularly mindful of children who appear to be withdrawn, lost in their own thoughts, or who show signs of unhappiness.
"Parents and teachers should address and discuss the issue if they see a change in a child's behaviour, and they should also look out for their children suffering from headaches, vomiting and sudden weight loss as a result of bullying," said N.K. Dhar, a doctor.
"Bullied children should be counselled because they can go into depression and their studies will suffer as a result of the bullying," he said.
"If parents are 'friends' with their children online, it will be easier to monitor them, and they will be more likely to know who their friends are, what is going on, and also understand the basic (terminology) of social online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube," said Jamil Ezzo, general director of International Computer Driving License, a non-governmental organisation in the Gulf.
He said there was a lack of statistics on how critical the problem was, and parents and every single adult in a child's life should be involved in looking out for the signs of bullying.
"We are living in a borderless world and bullying doesn't have to happen in schools alone but across countries, and it is our goal now, as a society, to be aware on how to deal with such a problem," Ezzo said.
"The sad truth about virtual bullying is that the victim would have difficulty running away from it."
"Traditional bullying has its limits because it can only happen through direct confrontations. But once cruel words or an embarrassing photo is released on the internet, it becomes viral and starts taking on a life of its own, which could leave deeper emotional scars far into the future leading to tragic endings," he said.