A case is currently before Kacyiru Primary Court where a man has been sued by a local journalist for using social media to insult her. The defendant, who has been identified as Prudence Iraguha, was sued by Scovia Mutesi who works with a local FM station for insulting her, ostensibly for refusing to invite him for a radio show that she hosts. The case, which was due for mention on Tuesday, February 8, has been pushed to March 1, after the defendants lawyer failed to turn up in court. Without going deep into more specifics of the case because it is still before the court, this is just an example of how pervasive online bullying has become with the increased internet penetration. Over the years, the internet has provided opportunities for learning, improving skills and acquiring new abilities and knowledge, especially during hard times like the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic. Social media has also become a sanctuary for many. It became a source of livelihood for some, a tool for those seeking to network with friends and family, or simply those who want to be entertained. Popular platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and others have provided comfort to people across generations. However, while most people are using these platforms for greater good, others choose to make environment toxic for others - particularly to the most vulnerable amongst us, children. Online toxicity encompasses rude, aggressive, degrading, and humiliating comments as well as excessive use of offensive language on online platforms. Anonymity, lack of face-to-face interaction, or context crumble all contribute to this. Due to the convenient access to internet, there are individuals who intentionally libel, bully, create confusion and division among people, or just seek to increase traffic to their websites or social media accounts. All of this can lead to low self-esteem, self-hate, and even an increase in the incidence of suicides, among other things. Every year in February, the world celebrates Safer Internet Day to encourage the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people, as well as to spark a discussion about using technology responsibly, respectfully, critically, and creatively. This year, the day is being observed on February 8 under the theme All fun and games? Exploring respect and relationships online. The day is used to amplify the call for a safer and better digital environment for young users, by engaging different stakeholders such as governments, civil society organizations, educators/parents, and young people themselves. Bodies like Get Safe Online, the Ministry of ICT and Innovation, Rwanda Information Society Authority, and the National Cyber Security Authority have been working hand in hand to assist in the protection of people, funds, devices, and businesses against online fraud, abuse, etc. Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online, believes that parents should be the first to take action to make the internet safer for their children. Most parents brag about their children knowing more about technology than they do while forgetting that they know better and more about life generally. They forget that they can detect danger far more easily than their young children, he said. Neate urges parents to monitor their childrens online activities. Ask them to play the videogame with you, for example, or get involved in their online activities, he continued, and then, if you detect anything criminal, harmful, or misleading online, report it to the police or your internet provider. I understand that it may be more difficult with teenagers, but dont give up before you try. Or, at the very least, ensure that they are aware of the downsides of the internet and that you are available to them in the event of an emergency. Robust legal framework Meanwhile, speaking to The New Times, Sylvie Nsanga, a digital expert and social activist called for a robust legal framework to govern and regulate internet usage in order to discourage bullying. “We need laws to regulate these spaces the same way that we have laws and regulations to keep us in line back in our communities, she said, adding that just as it is legally punishable to physically abuse someone, it should be legally punishable to emotionally attack someone on the internet. According to Nsanga, people on the internet give the impression of being reckless, which in turn lowers the self-esteem and confidence of their victims. In an optimistic voice, she said, “Rwanda has been doing a good job by establishing laws like cybersecurity regulations that are against cyberbullying among other things.” She added that much effort should be put in raising awareness around these legislations to safeguard their rights.