Put an end to cyberbullyingHundreds of netizens swarm to a chat room on the popular social networking service KakaoTalk to verbally gang up on a specific person. The victim’s phone vibrates or rings incessantly due to the flood of messages even if he or she avoids checking them, and then their battery runs out amid the bombardment. Even when he or she leaves the chat room, they are persistently invited back. Once trapped in the so-called cyber imprisonment, there is no easy escape unless the person stops using social media or his or her smartphone altogether.
Smartphone-based instant messaging has become a primary source of communication, especially among teenagers. It has also increased their exposure to cyberbullying.
The number of victims is rapidly rising and new ways to victimize people are developing fast. A teenager will often face ridicule and abuse in a chat room, and then everyone will leave the chat at once to isolate the person.
According to a survey of 4,000 middle and high school students across the nation by the National Youth Policy Institute, 27.7 percent said they’ve been cyberbullied. But just 5.2 percent reported the harassment to their teachers or police. Bullying on school grounds has improved, but the ridicule has now moved to cyberspace, where authorities’ supervision cannot reach. Saenuri Party Rep. Yun Jae-ok motioned for a revised telecommunications promotion and protection law to rein in cyberbullying on SNS platforms. He has proposed that service providers receive endorsements from users for their instant messaging services so that users can refuse unwanted invitations to a chat room.
However, the regulation will likely be insufficient to combat cyberbullying. First of all, victims may be coerced verbally or physically to join the chat room by perpetrators. But because the victim has agreed to join the group chat, offenders can avoid punishment later. New types of bullying may also grow.
Along with the new regulation, students as well as teachers and parents must be educated that cyberbullying is a dangerous form of abuse. Service providers also must try to develop new technology to reduce or block unwanted messages and group bullying.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 1, Page 34