Together, we can #ENDviolence online!

By Soksambath Pichny

© UNICEF Cambodia/2014/Nicolas Axelrod

As we go online everyday, we often forget that enjoyment and risk go hand in hand. Behind the screen is a person with emotions and feelings. A post that is seemingly funny and believed to be “just a joke” might cause harm, hurt or embarrass others. We can’t take this form of bullying lightly just because it doesn’t leave physical bruises and scars like those of physical violence. 

Cyberbullies aim to harass, threaten or spread rumours about others by posting or sending messages, pictures or videos on various digital platforms like chat rooms, instant messaging, text messaging, online social networks or blogs. It can be as simple as commenting mean, or inappropriate things on someone’s posts to hacking or pretending to be someone else by posting or sending embarrassing photos just to make fun or ridicule them. 

Not long ago, I experienced this as my Instagram was hacked and inappropriate content was posted under my name. It was really scary because they also changed my password and I couldn’t do anything. I thought to myself, what if my followers think that I was the one who posted all of that content? I decided to ask my friends for their help in order to report the hacked account and spread the word that it was no longer mine. Clearly, this problem can happen to anyone, and without us knowing, our reputation can be severely affected. 

As reported by UNICEF, around 85% of young people in Cambodia aged between 15-24 years old are in danger of experiencing online violence, cyberbullying and digital harassment. Cyberbullying victims are also more likely to skip school and receive poor grades compared to other students. They experience low self-esteem and other health problems. Online bullying can reach levels that lead those young people to commit suicide. This is a serious problem, just as much as other types of violence and we are all responsible for finding solutions!

I think we should always to choose to be kind. We have to be more supportive to one another online. It’s time to stop the name-calling and hatred! If we don’t have anything kind to say, it’s better to not say anything at all. And that doesn’t mean that you can’t express your opinion now. You have every right to criticize or give feedback if you don’t agree with something, but make sure we do so constructively. 

We should always keep in mind that the people behind the screen are actual human beings with feelings! I believe that sometimes we forget that what we do in the digital world will have an effect in real life. The internet has helped us interact with people without having to see and meet them in real life. This virtual world has somehow made us feel like we’re talking to accounts, forgetting the fact that these accounts are owned by people just like us. Therefore, we have to be reminded that it’s all about treating one another online how we all want to be treated offline.

We have to be more cautious of what we share on the internet and cross-check whether or not it’s true. Let’s ask ourselves many questions before sharing, sending or posting anything that could embarrass or hurt others – because once it’s sent or shared, it’s difficult to take it down. We are also responsible to take action when we see any dangerous or suspicious content by reporting such posts, pages, and websites. 

Remember, to stay safe online we should check our privacy settings, re-think the posts we’re sharing, consider what information we’re sharing and who can see our content. Do we always know who we’re talking to online? Let’s be careful of who we accept as friends.

We might have access to the internet, but not all of us know how to use it positively. So it’s time to change this! We are free to express our opinions and spread information. Let us not forget the responsibilities that come with this freedom, and let’s use it to spread love and positivity. Everyone deserves a safe online environment. And it starts from all of us. It’s on all of us. Together, we can #ENDviolence online! 

Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.

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