Every day, we hear of so many crime reports from across the world. Most of these happen in the ‘real’ world, where the perpetrator and the victim occupy the same space. But now, we have another world to worry about – the virtual world. One in which it sometimes becomes impossible to tell who the perpetrator is.
Cybercrimes and bullying are becoming serious concerns. Although they are conducted in the virtual world, they hold the power to impact the physical world. What might seem like a simple rant on twitter or an emotional quote on instagram or snapchat can influence a large number of people in the actual world. The most vulnerable to online bullying and cyber crimes are children and teenagers who have access to all manner of information on the internet, but are not always mature enough to be able to handle it. Hence, it is so very important to educate not only children and teens but also adults on how to be responsible and how to guard themselves against these crimes.
The Blue Whale Challenge is not very different from what any criminal in history has tried to do in the physical world. One man takes upon him to rid the world of the people he thinks don’t deserve to live. Teenage is a most vulnerable time in the life of a person; as the person is struggling with identity issues and still trying to figure out who they are. This makes them especially susceptible to online crime and emotional abuse, such as the Blue Whale Challenge.
Teens are known to experiment and take risks because of peer-pressure, parental and school expectations or media influence. Now with their accessibility to the virtual world they are being attacked and bullied via social media platforms also. It is important to understand that their struggle is one of self-esteem, the need to be understood and accepted, and having a sense of worth, wanting to matter to the world around them.
Parents, teachers, and care-givers must understand that once we help them in the real world to reduce these issues they are less likely to fall prey to such crimes online. They will then have the strength to say no, stand-up for themselves, identify and report abuse not only in the physical world but also the virtual world. There has to be a more active role that each one of us needs to play in spreading awareness about how to combat these crimes and protect ourselves and our loved ones.
Low self-esteem, disconnecting with friends, wanting to be alone, withdrawal from family members, reluctance to leave their electronic gadgets unattended, avoiding school or work, changes in personality (anger, sadness, crying), drastic changes in appearance or weight, fresh marks on the skin or wearing clothes that hide these marks even in summers, are some of the signs that may help a caregiver, friend, or family member to identify a need for help.
In such cases, it becomes important to make the person feel that help is available without judgment. Encouraging expressing one’s feelings either in spoken words, a letter or a journal helps in releasing these amped up emotions. We must convince such teenagers that their pain is understood, that they are brave, that we respect them for who they are, and that they have done nothing wrong.
We must challenge their belief that they deserve pain by showing them compassion and support. This will help the person move a step away from harm. Also, spreading awareness about how to report abuse online, taking screen shots or saving IP addresses as proof will let them know that help is available.
We need to remember that at the end of the day we are humans be it in the real or the virtual world. Our struggles and concerns may seem vastly different from one another but they are very similar. We all have a need to be accepted and loved; and accepting and loving oneself is the first step to that. To know that it is okay to be confused or scared, but to always believe that we are worthy.
As adults, it is our responsibility to watch out for these signs in children and teenagers around us. Without trying to invade into their privacy or threaten them with dire consequences; we must show compassion and the strength to stand by them. Only by convincing them of their own worth can we protect them from these invisible monsters.