Cyberbullying: The teenager’s phenomenon, Media literacy should be included in high school curriculum

Aftab Hossain
Senior Lecturer, Department of Journalism, Media and Communication
Daffodil International University.
Ph.D. Fellow (Cyberbullying)
School of Communication, Universiti Sains Malaysia.


While the term ‘bullying’ has been a concerning issue for decades, but the phenomenon of cyberbullying is a new challenge to deal with since the emergence of social media in Bangladesh and worldwide. Even though most face to face bullying happens inside the schoolyard, cyberbullying has broken the shackles of all the barriers of age and borders through the internet.

In recent years, the phenomenon of cyberbullying has taken the attention of people such as parents, news media, and researchers. According to research by UNICEF, 32% of the adolescents in Bangladesh are victims of cyberbullying and some other studies revealed that among the young victims 80% are female. Almost three out of four school-going students are victims of cyberbullying in some way.

Similar to face to face bullying, it has the same elements as the intention to harm, repetition of the act, and aggressive behavior. But, in cyberbullying, the usage of ICT devices is an addition that makes it different from traditional bullying. The global phenomenon of cyberbullying is also becoming a concern in Bangladesh.

Our sociocultural norms are developed in a way where insulting, misbehaving others, or bullying other online is treated as non-criminal behavior. While using slang or giving an insulting nickname to someone especially to humiliate is treated as a part of the fun!!! But On the other hand, the victim goes under tremendous psychological pressure that can harm the victim’s future life. In most of these cases, cyberbullying situations are initiated in the school premises or any other social gathering and continues overtime on the online platform. As one of the highest Facebook user city, the culture of online bullying is happening on Facebook.     

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is bullying on digital platforms such as mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. It can take place on social media, social networking sites, forums, or games via SMS, email, and applications, or online, where people can access, engage, or shares content. In the Bangladeshi context, it mostly happens over Facebook as social media or networking sites like Twitter and Instagram is yet to flourish in Bangladesh.

Cyberbullying involves sending, publishing, or sharing negative, damaging, misleading, or substantive information about someone else. It may involve revealing private or personal knowledge about someone else that causes embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into illegal or unethical behavior.

If you’re trying to find out whether you, your child, or your family members are being cyberbullied, think about whether the perpetrator is being deliberately and consistently hurtful. If the response is no, improved online conduct will simply be important for the offender to learn. Take it seriously if the answer is yes.

How does it happen?

Cyberbullying happens only in the cyber-world or online medium. The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:

  • Social Media: such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok.
  • Text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices.
  • Instant messaging, direct messaging, and online chatting over the internet.
  • Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards.
  • Online gaming communities or online gaming platforms.

Impact of cyberbullying

A victim of cyberbullying can be anyone who is connected to the internet. Either it could be a mature person with a strong and successful career or it could a high-school teenager who just got introduced to the cyber-world. However, according to research, adults can deal with online issues by coping up, ignoring, sharing with friends and family members, and legal actions.

On the other hand, children and teenagers have less maturity and psychological strength to deal with the issues. They are scared to share with parents, ill-advised while sharing with peers, and hesitant to tell their mentors or teachers. While dealing with cyberbullying, some mental and physical complications have been observed among teenagers around the globe.

In many cases, the teenagers feel ‘helplessness’ while they get bullied online and that can lead them to depression. In at worst case, committing suicide from depression can happen if the teenagers are not properly guided.

During and after being bullied online, the emotional state of the victim lowers their self-esteem. When a person loses their self-esteem at such a young age become less confident and suffer from an inferiority complex in adulthood. These problems can be difficult to solve at that stage of life.

Last but not the least, the sufferers of cyberbullying are intended to isolate themselves from the regular and online social life. The process starts with the perpetrators to exclude the victims from the cyber social life and ends up with the social exclusion of the victims both online and offline.

It is time and highly recommended to understand cyberbullying and the relevant issues and take proper initiatives by the pertinent stakeholders like; policymakers, parents, and academic institutions. Higher-level academic institutions like some of the universities have already started to teach and guide their students on social media etiquette and cyberbullying issues but it has to be taught at the high school and college level to make our online environment clean in the future.