Safer Internet Day : Taking Back Power Against Online Harassment

safer internet day 2021 | ChangeMakr Asia
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Safer Internet Day 2021. Once again with a theme of “Together for a better internet”.
In 2019, The ASEAN Post published an article on social media that highlighted its use of the youth, showing a study done by We Are Social and Hootsuite. The result of the study exposed, Singapore as the country with the fourth highest rate of internet use, specifically on social media worldwide with 79% of the population being engaged in the platform. Followed by Malaysia sitting in the sixth position with 78% and Thailand (seventh) with 74%, showing how massive the internet has grown in the past five years alone.
With this kind of reach, it seems inevitable for users to eventually come across vile content or even produce them. This is especially troubling when we take into account the rate of young individuals using social media as the effects can be very detrimental to their mental health. Shown through an article published on Microsoft Stories Asia in 2020, worldwide respondents who were affected by workplace bullying, reported feeling humiliated (58%), followed by up to 52% reported feeling demoralized and loss of self-confidence with 51% as the most common reports. The article then continued by stating that 53% of respondents in the age group of 18-24 years old mentioned the feeling of depression and isolation/loneliness as a result of being bullied.
Unfortunately, perpetrators rarely receive significant consequences for their actions and are able to go on with their lives normally, even harassing other victims in the long run. When it comes to these issues, it is often difficult for authoritative figures to be involved as the harassers can be slippery to catch due to the anonymous nature of the internet. As such, the issue of online harassment isn’t to be taken lightly and will require a lot of participations from different people.
online harassment | ChangeMakr Asia

Safer Internet Day : Standing Your Ground  

If you are a victim of cyberbullying or online harassment, here are a few things you need to remember:
1. Understand It’s Not Your Fault 
First and foremost, it is important to see the situation as it really is; someone harassed you and now you, as a victim are reacting to the case. It isn’t you enticing them into harassing you. 
Especially true in child predators, it’s not uncommon for perpetrators of harassment to lure their victims in to a feeling of comfort and trust before starting their horrible acts. This is why people outside of the exchange may feel compelled to side with the harasser as they have been carefully and meticulously manipulated into the feeling of trust.
2. Screenshot, screenshot, and screenshot  
If the exchange happens on a website’s comment section rather than on a private chatroom, it is best to keep tangible proof of it before reporting their profile; do not engage in their comments. Copy the link to the webpage you see the comment on but either way, screenshot the evidence. You may be tempted to respond to their attacks, but since engaging in conversations with them may make things worse, take a step back and breathe.
3. Report to The Authorities   
Report them to the authorities or simply report it to the harasser’s friends, family or if possible, significant other. In an online environment, victims can also report the perpetrator’s profile for sexual harassment, which later can lead to the termination of the entire account.
Tech companies such as Microsoft have begun taking action to help victims regain their power. To commemorate Safer Internet Day in February 2021, they have created online forms for people to fill in for non-consensual porn, possible terrorist messages and hate speech. The links are below:
4. Block Their Account    
Check their profile page before blocking, take note of the information they provide,  be it an email address, location or place of work to use as data for if or when you want to report them to the authorities. As every social media platform these days have a report, block and mute option these days, this will be the most effective tool in cutting the connection between you and them. Talk to a trusted friend, a family member or other loved ones that you can rely on to share the word and report the account as well, to further prompt the platform to act on the situation.
Blocking the account of their harassers was also shown as the most commonly chosen action taken by victims according to the same article from Microsoft Stories Asia. The study shows that 62% of respondents in Asia Pacific blocked their bullies which is followed by talking to a friend with 58%.
5.  Warn others of the individual and of their actions
In 2018, UNICEF came out with the statement that up to 1 in 3 people across 30 different countries have been a victim of bullying.Though it may seem like a mild case of harassment, this shows that there will always be potential victims online that may not be as prepared. Not only will this act as a way to keep other safe, but it may also help in stopping the harasser in repeating their actions in the future to other, more vulnerable individuals. You can use social media and/or even specifically the site where you received the harassment from to warn fellow users of the harasser so they can prepare themselves. Social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook also have groups or accounts dedicated to exposing these individuals and can broadcast your message to their followers.

It didn’t happen to me, but to someone I care about

Say your friend, family or significant other opens up to you about being a victim of online harassment, what should you do? The short answer is, support them. This means being patient and understanding of their situation as well as respectful of their decision. Dr. Helen Wilson, a clinical psychologist with expertise in trauma stated that at its most extreme, 90% of women who experience [sexual] harassment will almost immediately show signs of acute stress and as such, will require time to recover.
During this time, you can help your person by spreading the word and warning others of the perpetrator or simply listen and talk to your person if they do not wish to punish/report. This also entails that you cannot go around telling people about what your person has been through as it may be a very private and sensitive subject; things they would rather keep between you two.
You may be tempted to dig for more details, but unless your person feels comfortable sharing them, refrain from asking and instead offer them your help. Your number one priority right now should be making sure that your person is okay. Making sure that they are taking care of themselves is also very important as victims of harassment may struggle with stress, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.
Today and every day, we need  to take an active role in helping to create a better and safer online community for all.  
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