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Suicide now associated with cyber-bullying

22 Jul 2023 at 13:23hrs | Views
Worldwide cyberbullying has been associated with suicide among school children in several recent cases, a phenomenon that has been newly termed cyberbullicide. With access to modern technology and the internet, Zimbabweans now have access to a powerful tool for sharing information and ideas with friends and family all over the world. Unfortunately, we have individuals that use this tool to bully, harass, and intimidate others. Using the internet in this way violates our national laws and the Data Protection Act signed into law in 2021 under section 164B in the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act criminalises cyberbullying and harassment. It states that any person who unlawfully and intentionally, by means of a computer or information system, generates and sends any data message to another person, or posts on any material whatsoever on any electronic medium accessible by any person, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, threaten, bully or cause substantial emotional distress, or to degrade, humiliate or demean the person of another or to encourage a person to harm himself or herself, shall be guilty of a criminal offence. This offence carries a fine not exceeding level 10 as well as imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years or both.

Our schools are the epi-centres of cyberbullying yet most schools in Zimbabwe do not have the right structures to prevent, protect, monitor, educate and discipline cyberbullies. Cyberbullying in schools is a serious issue that can have a significant impact on children's mental health, self-esteem, and academic performance and schools need to have solutions to deal with child cyberbullying which is now prevalent in some schools.

Schools need to take a leading role in educating children and parents about the dangers of cyberbullying, the importance of respecting others online, and the consequences of cyberbullying. This can be done through community meetings, workshops, seminars, and other awareness programs.

Schools need to establish clear policies which is a school policy document to be signed by both students and parents against cyberbullying and ensure that students are aware of the consequences of engaging in such behavior. These policies should be included in school handbooks, constantly referred to and discussed in classroom settings.

Schools should have systems that monitor, detect cyberbullying activities and encourage students to report incidents of cyberbullying. This will help school administrators take appropriate action against the perpetrators and provide support to the victims.

Schools should provide counseling and support services to children who  would have been victims of cyberbullying. This can help them cope with the emotional impact of the experience and develop strategies to deal with future incidents.

It is important that schools work together with parents to address cyberbullying. Parents should be encouraged to monitor their children's online activity and report any incidents of cyberbullying to school authorities.

Schools should promote positive online behavior among students, such as encouraging them to use social media responsibly, to be respectful of others online, and to use the internet to enhance their learning.

Overall, the key is to create a safe and supportive environment in which children feel comfortable reporting cyberbullying incidents and seeking help when needed.

Role of a parent to child cyberbullying
Parents play a crucial role in preventing and addressing cyberbullying. Parents should educate themselves and their children about cyberbullying, including what it is, how to recognize it, and how to respond to it. This can involve talking openly and honestly with their children about the risks associated with using social media and other online platforms.

Parents should maintain open lines of communication with their children and let them know that they can come to them if they are experiencing cyberbullying. Parents should provide emotional support and help their children develop coping strategies to deal with cyberbullying.

Parents should model positive online behaviour and encourage their children to do the same. This can involve being kind and respectful online, avoiding cyberbullying, and reporting incidents of cyberbullying to the appropriate authorities.

If a parent becomes aware that their child is engaging in cyberbullying, they should take immediate action to stop the behavior and intervene to prevent it from continuing. This may involve reporting the incident to school officials, law enforcement, or social media companies, depending on the severity of the behavior.

Overall, parents play a critical role in preventing and addressing cyberbullying. By educating themselves and their children, monitoring their online activity, providing support and communication, modeling positive online behaviour, and taking action when necessary, parents can help to create a safer and more positive online environment for their children.

Role of government to child cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is a serious issue that affects many children, and governments around the world have taken steps to address it. The Government of Zimbabwe has passed laws that specifically addresses cyberbullying and make it a criminal offense. Data Protection under section 164B in the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act criminalises cyberbullying and harassment.

The government should be investing in education and awareness programs aimed at preventing cyberbullying. These programs should be designed to teach children and parents about the dangers of cyberbullying, how to recognise it, and how to respond to it.

The government and the private sector should be funding research into cyberbullying to help the nation to better understand the extent of the problem and to develop effective strategies for preventing it.

Internationally governments are partnering with technology companies to develop tools and resources to help prevent cyberbullying. For example, some governments have worked with social media companies to develop reporting tools and other features that make it easier to report cyberbullying incidents. This is a route the government of Zimbabwe should take.

Zimbabwe's government should provide support and resources for victims of cyberbullying. This may include counseling services, legal assistance, and other forms of support.

Zimbabwe's governments should adopt working structures with law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of cyberbullying. This may involve working with social media companies to identify perpetrators and providing training for law enforcement officers to help them better understand and respond to cyberbullying cases.

Overall, the Government of Zimbabwe is taking a multi-faceted approach to addressing child cyberbullying, which includes legislation, education and awareness, research, technology partnerships, victim support, and law enforcement.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults in the Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's young adolescents are spending most of their time online than ever before. It important that parents/guardians, educators and primary care providers to screen for cyberbullying routinely in the same way that they might screen for other suicide risk factors like depression. Parents/guardians, educators and primary care provider should also be aware of the risk factor and help protect today's youths.

Source - Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi
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