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Forensic Science for Healthcare Professionals

Preventing Cyberbullying

Dr. Bhoopesh Kumar Sharma
Forensic Expert & Associate Professor

What is Cyberbullying ?

Cyberbullying, also referred to as online social violence, is an act of bullying someone by means of digital media such as cell phones, computers and tablets. It can take place in social media, forums, or gaming via SMS, email, applications, or online where people can access, interact, or share content. It basically includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. Some these acts may cross the line into unlawful or criminal behavior. 

As per the sources the most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:

  • Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter
  • SMS (Short Message Service) also known as Text Message sent through devices
  • Instant Message (via devices, email provider services, apps, and social media messaging features)
  • Email etc.

People of any age may be the cyberbullying target, but mostly young adults were found to be the frequent victims. Typically the culprits are anonymous where he takes advantage of technology to keep them covered up. The perpetrator may have any motive ranging from just fun and expanded to malice or slander based on ego. Flaming, assault, cyber stalking, impersonation, etc. are the most common crime in cyber bullying. In flaming, vulgar language is used in online fighting, while the offender usually uses offensive, insulting, rude and obscene messages to the victim in harassment.

How Cyber-bullying affects an individual?

A cyberbullying victim may experience depression, anxiety, anger, shame, low self-esteem, poor academic performance, confidence issues, etc. In any of these cases, the position of friends, relatives or parents is more important for supporting the victim through social and psychological therapy, and with ample evidence only one can go through proper legal proceedings. Whatever the cause for cyberbullying you may still deal with it and may avoid it in many cases.

Depression and Anxiety from Cyberbullying

What to do with bullying messages?

1. Analyze the Message: Don't worry, just try to examine the threatening message you've got as any text or picture forensically carries information that shows the direction to your computer's response. Search for the names, phrases or vocabulary used in particular. It can give you an idea of the perpetrator sometimes.

2. Do Not Reply: Do not address or delete the message (or email), as the cyber forensic expert may later require it intact. Also, to create unnecessary mental stress on you, do not forward it to any other person. Although the messages will be anonymous several times, they can still be traced as the website host company must keep logs and information.

3. Keep the Evidence: If you get rude comments, instantly printing them out by messenger, which will serve as further evidence. A general rule is to copy the terms and conditions that have been violated and take a screenshot of the comment or photo as evidence when making a complaint about being bullied online. 

Block all the communication with the cyberbullies. Do not forward any message or comments that involves cyber bullying. Get yourself educated on the precautionary measures and reporting of cyber bullying.

Block Social Media

What are the Preventive Parameters?

1. Role of Parents: Look for the privacy policies: Always, one must read the website’s privacy policy before providing any personal information. It is also good make sure the website offers a secure connection before giving any information.

2. Know what’s going: Check for the unusual behavior of any of your friend, classmate or anybody related to you. As, Locard’s principle of exchange in forensic science says “Every contact leaves traces”, therefore, there will definitely be some traits the investigators usually looks for.

3. Keep a log of online activity: Mostly the social networking sites and your devices are equipped with the auto log recording summary. However, you can also be vigilant if you see any usually activity or login to your account at any time. 

4. Follow Internet Safety Tips: Never give out your real name to a stranger until unless it is very important. Never share your personal information online to anyone whom you do not know or chatting for first time. Only meet someone from a chatroom in a public place with one of your friend, parents or another adult. If they are genuinely who they say they are they will be happy to do this. Share with somebody close to you if someone makes inappropriate suggestions to you or makes you feel uncomfortable online.

4. Know the danger signs: There are certain signals which may be receive from the person on the other side of the computer screen. Few of these may be:

If the person tries to insist you to provide your details like your address or phone number.

If the person emails or messages you picture which makes you feel uncomfortable 

If the person tells you that he will keep the chats with you secret and will not share this with anyone.

If the person wants you to email or send them pictures of yourself or use a webcam in a way which makes you feel uncomfortable

If the person shares information with you and tells you not to tell anyone else about it

If the person wants to meet you and tells you not to let anyone know

If you find any of these danger signs it’s important that you tell your parents or another adult.

5. Machine learning can help resisting the online abusers: Nowadays, the offenders will not ask for data because they already knows it’s widely available for them to web scrape from publicly available social media posts in the quantity they need. Therefore, our overall goal should be to use artificial intelligence at a certain level (the device knowledge, the app knowledge etc.) to prevent cyber victimization. In such instances we should try to identify and blocking, banning, or quarantining) the problematic users and accounts, or we should immediately be deleting (inactivate) content that algorithms predictively flag and label as abusive, or otherwise controlling the posting, sharing, or sending or messages that violate appropriate standards of behavior online.


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