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Impacts of cyber bullying on female students in Bangladesh

Published : Tuesday, 18 April, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 2045
Rawnaq Ara Parvin & Aminul Hoque Tushar

Now a day, digital technology dominates our communication from business to social life. In this technological advancement era, we solely became depended on social media for everyday communication. However, through the proliferation of digital technologies, youths are engrossed in changing social networks i.e. facebook, messenger, WhatsApp, IMO, Viber and so on, beneficiated by broader avenues of communication and new learning opportunities. Beside exchange of educational materials and information, students who are in front of social media users; employ these media for sharing personal information and message with friends and relatives which sometimes results interpersonal conflicts, violence, aggression, abuse, and mental trauma.

Therefore, harassment and bullying became a common incident among these youths, adolescents as well as others. Cyber bullying, therefore, distort emotional and psychological well-being and even provoke suicide. Recent studies have revealed that bullying affects a significant proportion of young people, especially when socially interactive technologies are more widely used due to their wide range of functionality. According to a report of Daily Star (published on 30 Nov 2021), Cyber bullying is rampant in Bangladesh, where 80% of respondents are women and girls (age between 14 and 22).

What do we mean by cyber bullying?
Technically, cyber bullying is the term used for various types of harassment in the virtual world. UNICEF has defied Cyber Bullying as "Bullying with the use of digital technology is called cyber bullying and, it can take place on social media, messaging platforms, gaming platforms and mobile phones". In other word, repeated behaviour such as spreading lies against someone, sending embarrassing photos or posting video clips, sending abusive or threatening messages or images despite being aware that they can get hurt, sending mean messages to others impersonate someone, and spreading foul content opening fake accounts in others' names fall under cyber bullying. Though in majority cases female are primarily victim of cyber bullying, but males are there too.  Miserably, there are fewer studies to sketch the situation of university students regarding cyber bullying, however different newspaper articles, and reports revealed that, female students of colleges and universities are much sufferer. Regrettably, these victims avoid admitting cyber bullying within the closely-knitted communal culture, and hence the incident not properly address.  

What is the current situation?
According to a report published by UNICEF in 2019, dangers posed by online violence, cyber bullying and digital harassment for the 32 per cent children aged 10 to 17 years old who are online in Bangladesh and some experts called for concerted action to tackle and prevent violence against children and young people online. While, some studies highlighted the issue as pressing concern to tackle with care, deal through legal framework and public awareness building. In response to that, Bangladesh Police launched Police Cyber Support for Women on 16th November 2020, and recorded 17,280 complaints of women in the first year (Prothom Alo). In 2021, Cyber Crime Investigation division worked with more than 900 cases in Dhaka, among which a significant portion are of Private University Student. However, according to their records, the ratio of male and female victims of cyber bullying is the same. Women are more susceptible to become victims of 'Sextortion' (blackmailing with intimate photographs or videos). Moreover, the police statistics says, the number of male victims in cases of leaking intimate images or videos being unable to extort money, was only 23. On the contrary the number of female victims in such cases stood at 100, which is more than four times higher in comparison. Meanwhile, 49 male and 100 female became victims of cyber bullying through fake accounts. Some case studies claims that, female of university students in majority cases bullied by their classmates, teachers or by their so called boy friend.

What are the effects of cyber bullying?
According to UNICEF, when bullying happens online it can feel as if victims are being attacked everywhere, even inside their own home, class, and University campus. It can seem like there's no escape. The effects can last a long time and affect a person in many ways:
Mentally - feeling upset, embarrassed, stupid, even angry. Emotionally - feeling ashamed or losing interest in the things you love. Physically - tired (loss of sleep), or experiencing symptoms like stomach aches and headaches.

The feeling of being laughed at or harassed by others can prevent people from speaking up or trying to deal with the problem. In extreme cases, cyber bullying can even lead to people taking their own lives. Another study suggest that, cyber bullied individuals frequently manifest psychological problems such as depression, alienation, low self-esteem, phobias relating to university, schools, and social anxiety, from an individual to a societal level, especially affects youths (Maurya et al, 2022; Urano et al, 2020). However, influences on mental and physical health as well as academic performance have been linked to both traditional and cyber bullying on a significant scale (Martins et al, 2010). In extreme cases, attempt to suicide or addiction to drugs or crime has been reported.

How to prevent legally?
In Bangladesh, cyber bullying is not just an act to be scorned upon but is an offence punishable under the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act 2006. The Act inter alia provides that a person who deliberately publishes, in a website or in electronic form, any material which is fake and obscene or has the effect of corrupting persons who are likely to read, see or hear the material or causes to prejudice the image of a person or may hurt religious belief or instigate against any person, then the person publishing the material will be guilty of an offence under the Act. The punishment for such an offence is imprisonment and fine. Furthermore, if the harassment amounts to criminal intimidation (threatening another with any injury to his person, reputation, property etc.) as per the Penal Code 1860, then the person may be liable to punishment as per the Penal Code 1860. Victims of cyber crimes can lodge complaints through direct email (: [email protected]) or phone call (+8801320000888) to Police Cyber Support for Women. They can also lodge a complaint to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) by calling at +880-29611111 or by emailing at [email protected]. BTRC is supposed to take necessary actions within 24 hours and the perpetrators will be brought to justice within 3 days after the complaint is filed. The government has also launched a cyber-crime helpline. Victims can call at +8801766678888 to submit their complaints.

Cyber bullying can affect us in many ways. But these can be overcome and people can regain their confidence and health. Significantly, due to its severe repercussions, more research is required to examine the characteristics of cyber bullying in Bangladesh through social media platform. Private university students are more prone to endure various sorts of bullying in silence and feelings of loneliness from peers due to not living in communal residence halls. Teachers and the university administration need to take different measures (i.e. conduct research, collect data, do student counselling, establish victim support centre, conduct awareness session etc.), and remove the hindrance related to mental stress to ensure their sound academic as well as professional life.
Rawnaq Ara Parvin, Lecturer, Department of Sociology, Varendra University; Aminul Hoque Tushar, Labor Migration Analyst and Development Activist)

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