It may not make the front page news everywhere, given the depressing familiarity that such reports often appear, but yesterday, we carried a report of a 14-year-old girl from Kandivli who took her life after being harassed by a boy, stalked online and reportedly having several obscene messages posted on her social networking page. This piece of news will be soon forgotten and this teenager will become a statistic among so many other young people who are taking their own lives for various reasons.
It is disappointing to note that the police did not treat the complaint with seriousness. Cyber bullying can be as harmful and hurtful as real bullying, sometimes even more, because the messages are seen by many. The keyboard becomes a tool to humiliate and harass. This was sexual harassment which eventually led to the girl taking her own life.
The police apathy, where the girl and her father were turned away, as reports state, is just one aspect of this story. Parents need to keep an eye out for signs that their child may be a victim of bullying. Here, physical signs of harassment or bullying are not evident, so it may be difficult to observe what is going on. Yet, they should be alert to behavioural changes in their children, and signs of depression or fear. Keep the communication channels open so that the child can confide in you. Do not keep telling a tormented child to delete messages or treat the matter as trivial. Confront it, so that the bullying stops.
Youngsters who are being bullied must realise that taking one’s life is an extreme step. There are measures to stand up to the bully or take on this harassment, however insurmountable it may seem. Cyber bullying is the online counterpart to real-life bullying. It is time we recognise that.