Cyberbullying: Social media's darker side

India is the third biggest Facebook market with nearly four crore, 98 lakh Facebook users according to the social media company Socialbakers.

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India may have reason to celebrate its rising social media usage rankings, but it is yet to come to terms with its potential negatives, especially for teenagers, who form the bulk of the users in the country.

India is the third biggest Facebook market with nearly four crore, 98 lakh Facebook users according to the social media company Socialbakers. Semiocast, a social media monitoring tool, has rated India as the sixth highest user of Twitter. While globally the negative side of unmitigated use of social media is articulated, India has embraced social media without being too bothered about its possible hazards.

A Microsoft study early last month sounded off alarm bells when it revealed that more than 50% of the children in India using the net were either threatened or harassed online. The ‘Global Youth Online Behaviour Survey’ conducted by Microsoft, revealed that 53% of the surveyed children aged between eight and 17 in India admitted they were victims of cyber bullying.

Jacqueline Beauchere, author of the  ‘Global Youth Online Behaviour Survey’ said, “With the growing popularity of social networking, it is not surprising that we are seeing a new breed of socially engineered risks. When it comes to bullying, technology now provides a new platform on which behaviours ranging from meanness to cruelty can occur.”

Anup Girdhar, a cyber crime investigator, said that there were several cases of impersonation that occurred through social networking sites. “This may be triggered by jealousy or to harm someone’s reputation,” he averred. He advises not posting photographs on social networking sites since fraudsters often morph photographs and put them on other websites.

India earlier witnessed stray social media negativity in one case leading to a tragic suicide. Last September, an MBA student of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore committed suicide after her boyfriend dumped her on Facebook.

A recent ‘Tata Consultancy GenY Survey 2011-2012’ of nearly 12,300 high schoolstudents across 12 Indian cities found that 85% of the students use Facebook. Dr Sameer Malhotra, head, department of mental health at Max Healthcare, said that many students whom he counselled at schools underwent cyber bullying through social networking websites.

He said that these sites have a tremendous impact on the self-esteem and mindset of children. On an average, Dr Malhotra treats two to three cases relating to emotional stress caused by social networking sites every day. He pointed out that many children were addicted to Facebook and spent nearly six to seven hours online.

Television is no longer the king as Socialogue, a survey on social mediatrends and behaviour, revealed that 56% of Indians would prefer giving up television than social networking sites. It revealed that nearly 37% people preferred a large network of friends as compared to close friends.

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