The role of education in combating cyberbullying in Indonesia

Cyberbullying is a growing phenomenon in Indonesia that hurts students, affect their education, and requires immediate response. Schools can play an important role in fighting it and that’s why ChildFund is implementing SwipeSafe, a tailor-made interactive training package to skill young people to safely navigate their lives online.

November 27, 2023 by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatia, ChildFund International
4 minutes read
Junior high school students wrk in the computer lab at the SMP 3 Semin school in Semin, Gunung Kidul, Central Java, Indonesia. Credit: World Bank/Ed Wray
Junior high school students wrk in the computer lab at the SMP 3 Semin school in Semin, Gunung Kidul, Central Java, Indonesia.
Credit: World Bank/Ed Wray

Globally, the prevalence of cyberbullying has increased manifold. Children’s reliance on the internet for education, socialization and entertainment during the COVID-19 pandemic and post has further amplified risks of cyberbullying.

Based on a U-Report poll in 30 countries, 1 in every 3 young people has been a victim of cyberbullying and 1 in every 5 has skipped school due to cyberbullying and violence.

To achieve Sustainable Development Goals 4 (Quality education) and 16.2 (End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children), we must make every effort to combat the growing epidemic of cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying hurts students and their families

Victims of cyberbullying may endure mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, social isolation, difficulties adjusting to school and even dropping out. At its worst, bullying has driven children and young people to self-harm, substance abuse and suicide.

ChildFund spoke with Evi, a youth facilitator from ChildFund in Indonesia, as part of its #WebSafeAndWise online child safety campaign. Evi shared her experience of an incident of cyberbullying.

She said, “An irresponsible person took my photo without my permission and created a fake account. The account was then used to disseminate slander, which soon spread like wildfire. As a result, I was ridiculed and shamed on social media and in my community. It had an impact on my mental health and studies.”

Evi’s family was equally distraught by the incident, highlighting how incidents of cyberbullying affect the direct victim’s support network.

The Indonesian government takes action to address cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a growing phenomenon in Indonesia that requires immediate response. According to ChildFund's research, nearly 50% of high school and university students have been bullied online, with 59% reporting an incident in the last 3 months.

The Indonesian government aims to address the issue of cyberbullying through the Online Child Protection Roadmap 2023 and the National Action Plan on Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. It includes strengthening law enforcement, public awareness campaigns and providing resources for parents and schools to educate children about online risks in collaboration with information and communication technology platforms. However, more needs to be done.

Schools can play an important role in fighting cyberbullying. One possibility is that the government implements quality online safety curricula in schools.

Children's rights and voices must also be prioritized and included in the development and implementation of laws and policies addressing cyberbullying and violence.

Teachers’ voices and recommendations

ChildFund has asked teachers in Indonesia about their experiences dealing with cyberbullying in the classroom. Take a look at what they have to say.

"When children report incidents of bullying at school, teachers must listen to the child to create trust," says Maksimilian, a teacher in Kupang Indonesia. “A quick investigation into the complaint is required. Bullying and abuse, we know, can have long-term implications for children."

Maksimilian's advice is to have a suitable reporting structure in school so that children may report incidences of cyberbullying and abuse. When a case is reported, a redressal procedure should be in place and cases of online abuse should be addressed swiftly and decisively.

"A student once told me that she encountered online grooming and was tempted to take off her clothes and show off her body on her social media profile," Siti, a teacher in Kupang Indonesia recalls. “When she reported it to me, we handled it together. The solution we gave her was to block the perpetrator's account immediately.” Siti further adds, “Parents must monitor their children's online activities. Every day, every second, online crimes are committed. As a result, parents should be more vigilant.”

Based on the ChildFund report, not all parents and teachers understand cyberbullying or have adequate digital abilities to help children. We need to do more through awareness campaigns and education programs to assist children and their support network in preparing to navigate online spaces safely.

Prevention of cyberbullying and abuse through interactive training: SwipeSafe

To address this knowledge gap tied to online safety, ChildFund is implementing SwipeSafe – a tailor-made training package to skill young people to safely navigate their lives online in Indonesia.

The training program fills a vacuum by providing a comprehensive curriculum and training materials geared not only towards children and young people, but also towards parents/caregivers, child protection professionals, justice officers, law enforcement and internet café owners to help them understand and manage online risks.

"I participated in the SwipeSafe training in April 2023 and learned how to block people on social media as well as the six internet principles," Feren, an Indonesian student, said. “The first principle is transparency; the second is permanence; the third is connection; the fourth is anonymity; the fifth is information source; and the sixth is respect."

The program also supports schools in establishing referral mechanisms to prevent and respond to cyberbullying and abuse incidents. In Indonesia, the program is being implemented in some of the high schools of East Nusa Tenggara and Central Java.

To combat the scourge of cyberbullying, we need a whole-system approach centered on prevention and early and safe redressal.

Some of the urgent measures needed include strengthening the education system to both respond and inform on online safety, sensitizing children and their support network to identify and respond to online risks, making technology companies accountable for tracking and reporting cases of bullying and abuse immediately and strengthening policies to criminalize cyberbullying.

The time to act is now!

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