You’ve got (dread) mail

Eavesdrop on any young-group's conversation and you're sure to hear things like 'Hey, did you see what sh** X posted on Y's wall?" or "Dude, we were chatting last night and she's such a bim**?"

And all you can do is laugh, then blame those social networking and mailing websites until your phone beeps to remind you that even you're addicted to the same. But what when those 'You've got mail' alerts pause your world for a moment or those posts on the FB wall freak you out? When the anticipation to receive a mail or ping turns into a phobia, that's when you're facing digital harassment. The term used here is euphemistic.

Harassment can be rightly replaced with violence and yes, this is rampant throughout the world, especially amongst the youth.

Digitally Abusive Behaviour (DAB) has notably been a cause of depression for the ones who're harassed. The case of 13 year old Megan Meier who committed suicide because of excessive bullying via the internet may just be one of those reported out of many. But sure, it proves that children are tormented by such measures of harassment. Not only has it targeted some to commit suicide but has also embarrassed them and families to a great extent. For instance, the case of Lee Wiggins who fatally strangled and stabbed his girlfriend, 19 year old Siobhan Russell, in 2009 after harassing her for more than two years via texts and mails; or also the case of a Mumbai-based student who has been recently expelled from his school after allegedly using abusive language while chatting online with his principal.

Psychologist Anjali Chabbria opines that using digital technology to vent out aggression may seem safe as young people think there is no legal way of proving this and so they can play the blame game to get away with it. She cites a case, "Recently, a 14 year old who came to me was being harassed by someone who hacked her FB account and was posting random sleazy messages on her wall. The girl was depressed and even her parents did not support her. Such mob mentality seen amongst youth is probably because of four reasons; impulse, emotions, being vulnerable or being low. At times they just might be intoxicated while doing the deed. All these provoke sending love-hate messages via digital means. This is extremely recurrent among kids today."

What is important is that abusers who indulge in such means, not just bully verbally but also at times spread lies about them and assassinate their character, thus alienating them from their peers and acquaintances. An extreme case would be blackmailing or even a life-threatening situation. Mansi Hassan, Clinical psychologist says, "Talking face-to-face to people has been substituted by BBM pings, chat messages, texts, and through similar electronic devices. DAB has increased in youth as there is no confrontation happening while using electronic mediums. Even passive aggression can be a reason, some people find it easier to revert angrily in writing through mails, texts, etc. instead of showing it out in person. I remember a case when a sixth standard girl who was suffering from depression had come to me. She stopped going to school. On counselling her, I got to know that she had a fight in school with her friends, and they randomly posted obscene comments on her Facebook wall. She responded back through the same networking site, instead of confronting them. This caused a bad impact on her and she didn't want to go to school anymore. Peers make a lot of difference for children. Most kids think DAB is hep, but actually it's just another way to bully."

Communicate: If your child is too young to react and is being harassed, listen and understand the child's problem and support him/her. Dr Chabbria advises that you should assure him/her that things like this happen and they should learn to face it. Teach them specific ways of coping with it. Keep a check on children and also monitor if they're depressed or suicidal.

Chill: Don't ever get provoked, no matter what happens. Don't be depressed about it, understand it is a personal view and that if someone has said something obscene about you, it doesn't really mean they are true.
Never Revert Back: Ignore the person instead of instigating him/her by reverting to the mails. Dr Hassan says that reverting back blows the scene out of proportion.

Change is best: If there is continual harassment, it's better to change your e-mail id, number, or any mode by which you're harassed.

Involve elders: If the harassment is becoming a life-threatening situation, let parents and authorities know.
Educate: It is important that schools educate children on how to handle such situations.

Don't fret, we have law: Lawyer Vaibhav Parikh informs us that according to Section 67 of the IT Act of 2000 ie, 'Publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form', sending any message or attachment which is sexual or obscene via electronic medium is an offense. The harasser can be sued. You can lodge a police complaint against the person too.

Did you know
A 2009 poll by a survey agency and a channel found that about 50 percent of people between the age of ages 14 to 24 have been badgered by digitally abusive behaviour and nearly half of the young people who were part of the survey reported they see people being mean to each other on social networking sites.

Similar Threads: