Be careful with cyberbullying!

The Madre María Teresa Guevara Library offered a virtual conference about this very important topic.

By Lizbeth Rosa Rosa
School Psychologist

When we talk about cyberbullying, we refer to harassment or intimidation through digital technology. According to Unicef, one in three teens and young people say they have been a victim of cyberbullying, which can occur on social networks, messaging platforms, gaming platforms and mobile phones.

Faced with this reality, the staff of the Madre María Teresa Guevara Library recently invited me to offer a virtual conference on such an important topic before Sagrado’s students.

During the meeting, I mentioned that the Law Against Harassment and Intimidation or Bullying of the Government of Puerto Rico defines cyberbullying as “the use of any oral, written, visual, or textual electronic communication, made with the purpose of harassing, bullying, intimidating, and distressing a student or a group of students; and that usually results in damage to the affected student’s physical, mental, or emotional integrity and/or his/her property, and unwanted interference with the opportunities, performance, and benefit of the affected student”. Even if the actions do not originate in school or on campus, cyberbullying has serious repercussions and adverse consequences in the educational environment.

It should be emphasized that the aforementioned law does not apply only to public or private schools in the Island, but also includes higher education centers. As stipulated in the law, all these educational institutions must develop and implement an Institutional Protocol for the Management of Harassment.

“Spreading lies, posting shameful photos of someone on social media, recording fights and uploading them to social media, sending hurtful or threatening messages, creating forums to incite hateful messages towards a person or group of people, blackmailing with threats of uploading material of a sexual nature to social media, and stalking a person are all forms of cyberbullying”.

Lizbeth Rosa Rosa
School psychologist

According to a publication of the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics titled “Student Health and Safety Profile in Puerto Rico,” cyberbullying is more frequent in female students than in male students. Likewise, they found that the number of bullied students who seriously considered committing suicide increased from 12.3% in 2015 to 17.1% in 2017.

Unlike other countries, Puerto Rico has included cyberbullying in its Criminal Code. According to Section 178 – Intrusion into personal tranquility, “any person who, through telematic communication, or by any other means, utters or writes threatening, abusive, obscene, or lewd language to another person; or who, for the purpose of annoying any person, repeatedly makes telephone calls or causes another person’s telephone to ring repeatedly, or any person who knowingly authorizes that any telephone under his/her control be used for any purpose prohibited in this Section, will incur in misdemeanor”.

Cyberbullying results in emotional, as well as physical damages. It is common for many victims to experience feelings of shame, loss of interest in what they like, sadness, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and suicidal ideations or attempts. With regards to the physical, they could manifest fatigue, lack of sleep, headache, as well as somatizations.

What should you do if you are being bullied or harassed?

  1. Talk to someone you trust.
  2. Gather evidence before blocking the person who is harassing you.
  3. Report to the Police.
  4. File a complaint in the office that handles these cases within your educational institution.
  5. Inform what is happening to you on the corresponding platform.
  6. Seek legal advice.

The existing electronic platforms can be of great help to everyone, providing benefits to our educational, personal, and professional training. Unfortunately, many people misuse them in order to harass, ridicule, and humiliate others. It is extremely important not to remain silent in this type of situation. Seek help. Your life matters!

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