Cyber Bullying trends in Africa

September 16, 2017

According to experts, cyber bullying is the intentional use of social media platforms, information and communication technologies, new media technologies like phones, email, chatrooms, discussion groups, applications, instant messaging, blogs, video clips, cameras, hate websites, pages, blogs and gaming sites to repeatedly harass, threaten, humiliate and victimise another with the intention to cause harm, reputation damage, discomfort and intimidation.In Africa, cyber bullies have been bullying people with impunity but new technology will help those countries with robust regulations to fight the crime. Victims of cyber bullying always feel powerless, lonely, upset, insecure, desperate and have feelings of refuge as there is no escape from the perpetrator who continues to harass, troll or stalk the victim. Thanks to public outcry, several African countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Egypt, Angola among others are implementing such solutions. This means in future people will not just get away with their crime.Most cyber bullies don’t know that everything posted online is being stored even if deleted, messages sent are also being saved by phone companies even after it’s deleted. Also, emails and private messages sent are stored by host providers of the platform. Chat conversations and other social media applications are also stored on servers. Every device that accesses the internet has its own Internet Protocol address that can be traced back to the user.Am one of those who feels that victims should not wait until a horrible event happens before they speak up against cyberbullying. It would be too late by then.African countries need solutions to cyber bullying that happens on a daily basis because the results are critical and Africans are overlooking the issue and accepting it too lightly. The issue is only addressed or talked about when something real happens.Social media has enhanced our ability to be connected and engaged, the technology sector is now one of the largest in Africa.Countries like Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania are some of the most connected and engaged in the continent and on average people own at least 2 devices.While social media has fantastic benefits it has come at a devastating cost, with families, friends and most importantly victims who feel there is nowhere to turn to. Words do hurt and the consequences of cyber bullying almost on a daily basis with reports that 4 in 10 Africans experience cyber bullying. Some Africans are showing signs of being addicted to their devices and for some there is now a dependency on technology that is to be reachable and contactable all the time, techno stress which is inability to disconnect.

Data in my possession shows that cyber bullying is now the third most common form of bullying in Africa. Some behave with no responsibility while others are callous and ruthless. Cyber bullying is intergenerational and anyone can be a victim, whatever their age while cyber bullies have the ability to target individuals anytime any day and can remain anonymous and significantly impact a large number of users and individuals instantly. Cyber bullies also intrude in places that were once regarded safe such as homes. Perpetrators, predators, paedophiles and groomers influence and gain access to our most vulnerable.There is need to self-regulate, having a mature outlook on issues discussed online as well with a set of guidelines on the usage and or dissemination of content for public consumption. The awareness just isn’t there. People don’t realise or understand that posting a certain remark can have a detrimental effect on an individual. There’s need to educate people what is acceptable and what is not acceptable online. The study on cyberbullying among 6,000 African young adults between ages 16 to 35 showed that 68% of the respondents have been bullied online in the last three months before report was commissioned. At least 59% of them admitted to have bullied someone online and 87% have witnessed cyberbullying on social media platforms.Ignorance of the law is no excuse and users should consider their online actions as authorities are responding to inappropriate behaviour with heavy fines and prison terms.They need to speak up. The victims as well as the witnesses. With knowledge, they can gather evidence and report to the relevant authorities.Perhaps there’s need for African education experts to consider new syllabus that promotes healthy and positive attitude on social media and online generally.In this day and age, conducting stuff online and how to handle the many challenges of the cyber space should be considered a life skill that needs to be introduced at African schools to prepare future generations.Cyberbullying is connected to a wide range of issues that are related to family, friends or peer pressure. In order to actively curb the issue at hand, African countries have to provide children with knowledge and skills to enable them to make informed choices as they navigate the cyberspace.In my view, I strongly believe that education is important in curbing cyberbullying. It doesn’t hurt to keep telling people about the issue like I’m doing by writing this post.

 

Contador Harrison