Pressing need to educate parents & teachers to help children cope with cyberbullying, says clinical psychologist at SIBF 2020

During online Sharjah International Book Fair 2020 social media talk  

Sharjah, November 11, 2020

Bullying is a serious, long-standing social problem that has now spread to digital spaces. A 2019 Youth Risk Behaviour survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that an estimated 15.7% of high school students were electronically bullied in the 12 months prior to the survey.

This amplified the need for educating parents and teachers how to help children cope with cyberbullying, said clinical psychologist Divia Ahuja, at a social media session held on the ‘Sharjah Reads’ virtual platform as part of the ongoing Sharjah International Book Fair 2020.

Ahuja pointed out that cyberbullying included sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone that causes embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behaviour.

The counsellor said cyberbullying has unique concerns in that it can be persistent, as digital devices are constantly on and that can make it difficult for children being cyberbullied to find relief.

Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public, if not reported and removed. A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact college admissions, employment and other areas of life.

Because teachers and parents may not overhear or see it taking place, cyberbullying was harder to recognise, said Ahuja. “You have to earn the trust of your children,” she said. “If you see changes in their behaviour – if they are not sleeping well, reluctant to go to school, or hiding their devices from you, ask them as calmly and as open-heartedly as possible.”

She advised working with the child to arrive at solutions. “Cyberbullying involves a loss of dignity or control over a social situation, so involving your child in finding solutions helps him or her regain that. Respond thoughtfully to the situation. Reacting rashly can make the situation worse. Always take time to listen to them when they come to you for help.”

She recommends teaching your children not to respond or retaliate to cyberbullying. “It only worsens the issue, and may lead to further triggering the perpetrator,” she said, adding, “Teach them that they have the power to control the situation by blocking the bully. Always save the evidence of the bullying for help in future situations.”

Organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), SIBF 2020 concludes on November 14. Being held under the theme, ‘The World Reads from Sharjah’, the 39th edition has adopted a fully digital format to host its cultural and social media programme of 64 unique events, which are being streamed on SBA’s virtual platform over the 11 days of the fair. Register for upcoming discussions at