This story is part of
Spotlight — Karnataka

Bengaluru’s growing cyber-bullying problem

With doctors in Bengaluru reporting an increase in the incidence of cyberbullying, Jahnavi T.R. speaks to parents, health professionals, and law enforcement personnel to understand the gravity of situation 

February 29, 2024 10:05 pm | Updated March 05, 2024 03:11 pm IST

Bullying among tweens and teens can come in the form of insults, harassment, denigration, hoaxing, cyber pursuit and impersonation, among others, doctors say. (Image for representation purposes)

Bullying among tweens and teens can come in the form of insults, harassment, denigration, hoaxing, cyber pursuit and impersonation, among others, doctors say. (Image for representation purposes) | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“My daughter recently became hesitant to attend school, and when this behaviour persisted, we suspected something was amiss. Seeking help from experts at a hospital, we were deeply disturbed to learn that she had been a victim of cyberbullying,” said Anjana (name changed on request), a mother of a victim of cyberbullying at a school in Bengaluru.

Curiosity among children is often an appreciated quality. But if mental health professionals and the police are to be believed, this inherent curiosity is what has led to a growing problem of cyberbullying in the city.

Anjana further expressed her concerns. “It is incredibly concerning that so many children fall prey to online harassment, leaving them with trust issues at a crucial age when they should be enjoying carefree time with friends. Often unaware of who takes and abuses their pictures online, these children suffer silently, unsure how or when to seek help. The lack of measures to monitor the impact of excessive and unsupervised screen time on children is the key factor that is making several children vulnerable to cyberbullying at school.”

Being the IT capital of the country, Bengaluru indeed has its advantages when it comes to tech and digital advancements. However, this increased digital accessibility, which is also common to other major urban cities in the country, along with a long list of benefits, has also brought along an equally long list of problems. With children’s exposure to smartphones and the internet increasing with the advent of COVID–19 and online classes, mental health professionals across Bengaluru have noticed an uptick in cases of cyberbullying among children in the last two years.

At some hospitals, the number of such cases has increased by at least 10% in the last couple of years. “I have seen at least 30 to 40 such cases in the last year. Due to COVID-19, children got more access to digital devices, but there was limited or no monitoring of the same. Cyberbullying has now become a growing concern among tweens (pre-teenagers between the age group of 8–12 years) and teenagers,” said Anitha Bharathan, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Cadabams Group.

What is cyberbullying

Cyberbullying among children is not very different from what happens to adults, doctors say. Bullying can come in the form of insults, harassment, denigration, hoaxing, cyber pursuit and impersonation, among others. The doctors also said this bullying often leads to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, paranoia, loneliness, and psychosis, and, in severe cases, can even bring about suicidal tendencies.

Manoj Sharma, Professor of Clinical Psychology and coordinator of SHUT clinic, NIMHANS, recalled a case from around two years ago. “An adolescent girl was being bullied on social media platforms. She was on it very early and had got into communication with an unknown person. The unknown person demanded an offline meeting, and when the meeting happened, she realised that he was different from what he had projected on social media. Subsequently, she tried to move on, but he started cyberbullying her.”

He added, “She carried the distress, and it became so significant that it started affecting her biological function and even led to suicidal tendencies. The family eventually approached us for mental health issues.”

Bharathan also said cyberbullying can also lead to psychosomatic problems like headaches, sleep and appetite issues, and digestion problems.” She added that along with psychological and physical impacts, cyberbullying can also lead to increased substance use and have an effect on children’s studies. “Children might show hesitancy to go to school. Their grades might drop drastically,” she said.

What leads to cyberbullying 

Speaking about the two kinds of children who are involved in bullying, Harsha G.T., Consultant Psychiatrist, Manipal Hospital, Yeshwanthpur, said, “The first set of children are the ones who have anxious traits and fall prey to such bullying. The other kind are those who are hyperactive and inattentive and bully others on an impulse.”

While acknowledging that there was an increase in cyberbullying cases post-pandemic, Harsha said that the root of both the problems and solutions in such cases lies in parenting. “Such behaviours usually arise out of curiosity among children who are not exposed to many things. While mobile restriction can help control problems like cyberbullying, parents should also remain close to their children and be permissive enough for them to talk to parents.”

Mental health professionals shared the consensus that parents should be more involved in their children’s mobile usage and constantly monitor the apps and websites they access. They also said that parents, while setting ground rules, must also be open-minded if their children approach them about the issues they face online. More importantly, they noted that reporting cases is the need of the hour.

Despite seeing some cases, doctors said not many parents approach professionals when it comes to cyberbullying. “Children carry the distress that comes with it and do not really take formal help. Families usually try to reassure them. Hence, by the time they reach out to us, the problem would have gotten bigger,” Sharma said.

Doctors are not the only ones who have seen the underreporting of cyberbullying cases. Police officials also said the number of cases registered was fewer when compared to the cases that occur.

“In the Southeast Division, we have seen over 20 cases of cyberharassment among students in the last two years. However, the first issue that comes with minors and teenagers is that the parents are not very open to the idea of registering cases, even when there are clear cases of cyberbullying or cyberstalking. Parents have their apprehensions as they want to protect their children, especially when the victim is a girl,” said C.K. Baba, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Southeast division, Bengaluru.

Baba also said among the cases of cyberharassment he has dealt with in his jurisdiction, curiosity among children often leads to certain behaviours.

“There is a certain curiosity among both boys and girls which leads them to indulge in a particular act or behaviour. It may be an innocent act for one party as they might not be aware of the ramifications. The other party might then retort to blackmailing, threatening or seeking more favours. That is when they realise it is becoming problematic, and even in such situations, especially if they are of the same age, they try to deal with it amongst themselves,” he said.

Apart from children, he said students from many reputed colleges have also fallen victims to cyber harassment.

Medical professionals and law enforcement officers stressed the need for schools to educate children about the importance of cybersecurity and the perils that come with internet usage. They also said schools should become a safe space for children to share such concerns when they are being subjected to bullying by their classmates. 

Prevention is the key, say schools 

Amidst these growing concerns, schools say they have become proactive and preempt children getting cyber bullied. Along with in-house counsellors, they also reportedly bring in cyber experts to educate children.

“We have noticed that children are on social media from sixth grade onwards. We have an adolescent education programme where, along with the physical aspects of growing up, students are also taught about online presence and how the things posted there are permanent and other cyber dangers. We also tell them about the apps they should not access (while using their parents’ phones),” said Malathy. R. Narayan, principal, National Public School, Rajajinagar, in west Bengaluru.

“We also tell children the differences between teasing and bullying. All of these things are a year-long exercise. To educate parents, we also conduct orientation for them to put parental locks on phones for certain apps and websites,” she added.

Schools also conduct various programmes to create awareness among students about what constitutes bullying and provide them with an opportunity to report their issues anonymously, like a confidential drop box for instance.

“We conduct workshops on cyber safety and cyberbullying where experts talk to children about cyber crimes. We also have our own cyber policy, which students, parents and teachers are all aware of,” said Nooraine Fazal, Co-founder, CEO and Managing Trustee of Inventure Academy, which runs many educational institutions in the city. She also said that the school does circle time to provide students with a safe space to share their concerns.

Along with such measures, Baba said the best way to prevent children from getting cyberbullied is by creating awareness among teenagers through comprehensive educational programmes. “The programme should involve the personal safety of the child and also inform the minors about the dangers of cyberbullying. Like how children are getting educated about POCSO at school levels, the programme should educate them about responsible online behaviour,” he said.

He emphasised the need for schools and colleges to have a reporting mechanism in place by having information boards about how students can report cyber harassment.

Government working on creation of awareness

Priyank Kharge, IT and BT Minister, Karnataka, said that with various demographics of people falling prey to cyber crimes, the State government is working on creating awareness among people with various programmes. “We have tied up with Meta to educate students in over a thousand colleges to educate them about cyber safety. We are also designing programmes to educate students about cyber bullying, cyber crimes, digital financial literacy and safe game servers. We are trying to make the cyber space a safe space for everyone,” he said.

Tips from experts


  • Don’t talk to strangers
  • Don’t get complacent
  • Block and report online bullies
  • Protect your Identity online
  • Beware of suspicious messages
  • Clean your contacts regularly
  • Be aware that anything shared on the internet is shared forever


  • Set ground rules for online usage 
  • Talk to children about how and why you would monitor their online use
  • Restrict and monitor the content usage
  • Encourage your child to talk to you if they experience anything negative
  • Teach the kids how to take steps to be proactive online
  • Don’t forget the positives of using the internet

Source: Cadabams Group

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.