Briefly, there are several types of bullying that have built up and fed the cyber-monster.
Cyberbullying is more prevalent and serious than we realise. Talk to the kids before it's too late. Bring it up - with the school, with the kids. And don't tell the kids to be brave and take it on the chin. That's not cool
When I was 12 years old and in Middle School, a senior taking a cadet corps parade called me Moonface. For some reason, that insult resonated and even 50 years later the singular act of bullying has stayed with me. Very often, when I look in the mirror even today I try to see why he would have said that: was it the round contours of my face or the pitted surface of pre-teen acne?
That is how powerful bullying is. And cyber bullying today is a cruel and advanced version of our times when ragging and physical intimidation were not supported by the highly destructive threat and derision of the sort that the Net and its social platforms can host.
One of the biggest problems with cyberbullying is the chasm that exists in understanding how overwhelming and total it is in its devastation and the readiness to do something about it. If we do not recognise its existence in all its evil, then parents, teachers, authorities and the population at large will allow victims to suffer the agony because collectively we are not prepared to accept how cruel it is and how deeply it cuts. If parents fail, the authorities can do very little.
Briefly, there are several types of bullying that have built up and fed the cyber-monster. There is the kindergarten bully who is seen as a high-spirited youngster whose parents simply fail to understand how he frightens other kids. Even teachers tolerate his biting and kicking and pinching - girls though, can be as harmful and successful at intimidating classmates. He is not a naughty little boy; he is a badly behaved child who needs his comeuppance. He is a danger to other kids.
There can be racial bullying where schoolchildren of a different genetic make-up or skin colour are isolated and mocked, giving them a complex and a sense of self-loathing.
In these tender years, not belonging can be hugely scathing to the psyche. When only the fair skinned kids get the roles in the school play. When teacher's pets have the cake. When the affluent parents' children are given the benefit of the doubt. When you know you will never come first because you know who will.
Because parents are scared into zombies by autocratic school principals who run their fiefdoms like little duchesses and shall brook no impertinence or complaint from parents, much of this is swept under the rug. Your child is not assertive enough.
Then there is group bullying where kids gang up against one person and torment that person in class, in the yard, in the bus, driving that child to the depths of self-esteem lost.
Adult bullying goes on and the sterling example is that of new mothers competing with each other about the progress of their children. What, not walking yet, not talking, mine cannot stop babbling.
These are all parts of the same sad collage and the problem lies in not taking it as seriously as one should. Parents don't want to see their children as victims or weak or vulnerable so they think they'll make them stronger by fighting their way out. So when a child comes home with bruises or torn clothes or sulks and becomes withdrawn and sullen or shows reluctance to go to school, be a good and sensible parent. Investigate why.
Get it to the notice of the school. Don't ginger up your kid and tell him to go out and be a man or your daughter to take it on the chin. These are victims of a criminal code of conduct that has been allowed through lazy conspiracy to wound and scar children for generations. There is nothing romantic about it nor is it 'one of those things'.
Children back off when they realise their parents or teachers are not going to be of any help. They have opted for the easy way out and the child will become insular and moody. This is not teenage angst, it is a bubbling fear of the oppressor and mothers and fathers can be foolish enough to not see it. Next step: anxiety attacks, depression, self-hatred and a precipitous drop in capabilities.
Before you duck the issue by convincing yourself that your children are not targets, absorb the stats.
One report says: "On a global scale nearly 43 per cent of kids have been bullied online. One in four has had it happen more than once. 70 per cent of students report seeing frequent bullying online. Over 80 per cent of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most common medium for cyber bullying.
68 per cent of teens agree that cyber bullying is a serious problem.
81per cent of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person.
90 per cent of teens who have seen social-media bullying say they have ignored it. 84 per cent have seen others tell cyber bullies to stop.
Only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse.
Girls are about twice as likely as boys to be victims and perpetrators of cyber bullying.
About 58 per cent of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out 10 say it has happened more than once.
Bullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider committing suicide.
About 75 per cent of students admit they have visited a website bashing another student."
The last five factors are scary and cut across all boundaries. Ethnic, racial, religious, it does not matter. Every child is susceptible. For every ten kids, nine are silent even though they are screaming inside.
Be a good parent. Check out your kids. Ask them about it. Talk to them. Win their trust. The first sign that something is out of kilter, step in, step up.
Me, I met the guy who called me that name 15 years later. I was twenty-eight and he, in his thirties. He did not remember what he had said to me. I could have thrashed him to pulp. I saw him approach all friendly like, and my heart beat faster. I was nervous. For one brief moment I was Moonface.
That's how long it lasts. Forever.
Bikram is a former editor of KT. Everyday humour is his forte