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Raising legal, social awareness needed to tackle rise in cyberbullying: Psychology Professor

By Majd Othman

KUWAIT: There are many ways to bully and hurt someone online. While cyberbullying has many forms and types, it has the same destructive effect on the victim. Bullying varies between harassment, defamation, identity impersonation, cyberstalking, electronic ostracism, hacking, as well as electronic bullying through photography, spying, and deception.

To learn more about this topic, Kuwait Times spoke with Amthal Al-Huwailah, a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Kuwait University and discussed with her various issues related to cyberbullying and its impact on the bullied victims. “Bullying is the umbrella term of violence that starts with the bully from a young age as we can see in schools on a daily basis,” Huwailah said. “Meanwhile, cyberbullying is one of the different forms of bullying which can be psychological or physical.”

She mentioned that there are many reasons behind bullying. “The bully takes that kind of attitude for several reasons,” she said. “The reasons include feeling strong and powerful when they verbally attack their victims, taking out their frustration and anger from their social environment, not investing their free time with useful things, feeling stressed, or due to low self-confidence.”

“Social media helps increase the bullying behavior because the identity of the bully is unclear, which ensures him that he will not be held accountable, while sometimes the bully is from the same community as the victim, and they use a fake social media account to reach their purpose,” she stressed.

Amthal Al-Huwailah

Celebrities targeted

“Celebrities are most affected by bullying because bullies think it is easier for them to attack the celebrity who shares his detailed life on social media,” she said. “In addition to that, the bully sometimes feels jealous of the celebrity’s life, thinking it is better than their own, which encourages them to bully. Unfortunately, celebrities misuse social media platforms by showing off their lifestyle in a provocative way, which pushes their followers to react harshly or bully them.”

Meanwhile, Huwailah pointed out that bullies “show off their skills in hurting others” because according to her, they feel high and powerful “when they think that they can hurt anyone without being held accountable.” She added, “The family, educational institutions and ministries have to work on raising awareness among this generation on how to use social media correctly, especially that teenagers are also affected by both behaviors as being a bully or becoming a victim.”

“Legal awareness is also an important step that should be taken in order to decrease bullying among social media users, and to alert them that there are strict consequences and laws against anyone who hurts or bullies others, even if they use fake accounts,” she explained. “Bullying has increased with the spread of social media platforms, and it increased as a result that some bullies don’t understand the law. Everyone can write anything at any time on any account on a social media platform. Bullying has affected men, women and children.”

Psychological effects

“Psychological effects of cyberbullying are countless,” she warned. “Some victims retire from social media if they are subjected to bullying, while this act could also affect their families. Others may lose their business if it depends on social media. However, the psychological effects may lead the victims to isolate themselves from others, law self-confidence, become pessimistic, and not feel safe even if the victim is at home due to the existence of cyber bullies. Sometimes the effects of bullying may extend to harm a person’s reputation, which is a serious social issue especially for women.”

Huwailah also mentioned some theoretical psychological studies which indicate that the victim of bullying may turn into a bully due to the harm they have been exposed to, while in other cases it may lead them to suicide. Regarding the steps that should be taken to tackle the problem of cyberbullying, Huwailah said, “Spreading the culture of how to use the social media platforms is the main thing that should be done in society, in addition. learning the importance of respecting others and differences of views at all levels. Also, parents should raise their children on the Islamic principles that urge us not to harm others.”

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