We find the convenience of having a mobile device a necessity in the Information Age, but not everything about the interconnectedness of our society is positive. Bullying is already a huge issue for children across the UK, one which is only made more prevalent and available through the technological devices we all keep about our person. According to the NSPCC, bullying is the top reason children aged 11 and under contact Childline, that 45% of young people will experience bullying before the age of 18 and more than 16,000 young people are absent from school due to bullying each year.
Children who have mobile devices and who use social networks are increasing the potential for bullies to access them outside of school hours, as well as providing a more public platform for further possible embarrassment or abuse. It’s not only on social media that bullying can occur; if your child plays online games with others they may find themselves victims of gaming-specific kinds of bullying like trolling or (often far more aggressive) ‘griefing’.
Cyberbullying can include anything offensive, humiliating, threatening or abusive that is directed at you on an electronic form of communication. This includes via text, email, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, instant messaging and online games.
There are a lot of ways people can be bullied online, it isn’t just namecalling on facebook! Some other behaviours which are considered cyberbullying (and also require police intervention in some cases):
- Nasty messages online or on the phone
- Comments on your posts or posts about you online
- Being excluded from online groups and forums
- Embarrassing photos being put online without your permission
- Rumours and lies about you on a website
- Offensive chat on online gaming
- Deliberate destruction or obstruction of play during games
- Fake online profiles being created with an intent to defame you
60% of children who said they were bullied experienced bullying online according to global bullying crusaders ‘Ditch The Label’. The biggest difficulty with online bullying is that while verbal or physical abuse is often apparent to authority figures, being bullied online is silent and insidious. Additionally; those who are subjected to online bullying do not think their parents will understand, or wouldn’t take cyberbullying seriously – a side-effect of many adults eagerness to dismiss online socialisation as frivolous or shallow.
This is corroborated by research undertaken in the UK by Ditch The Label this year. In their 2016 annual study on bullying, they found that 45% of young people who have been bullied in the past year reported that they don’t feel like bullying is taken seriously by their school or college. They also reported that:
- 21% feel like teachers need more anti-bullying training;
- 19% said that they’d like to see more lessons and activities designed to combat bullying;
- 17% want greater promotion of varied support services;
- 17% want to have greater access to self-help materials;
- 16% want guest speakers to talk about bullying and related issues;
- 16% want to see more discussions and debates in class about bullying, equality and related issues.
Dealing with bullying should begin at home, in frank and honest discussions with your child. Most importantly, we advise parents to build open and honest relationships with their children so that they are comfortable coming to you about any issues that may be troubling them and create a ‘safe-space’ culture that is inclusive and allows for freedom of expression without judgement. It is important young people feel comfortable approaching adults for help; it can be very intimidating or embarrassing for young people to speak about their experience, or even afraid of the potential repercussions of doing so – from both bullies and adults who may not take it seriously.
There are several common warning signs that children may show if they are being bullied; these can be low mood (difficult to pick with teens!), a desire for isolation or to be left alone, loss of appetite or sudden changes in behaviour. If you feel you child might be being bullied, familiarise yourself with your school’s anti-bullying procedures, contact the school and follow up with what action is being taken. It is also imperative that you familiarise yourself with different social media platforms that are popular with young people to advise them on how to report content or bullying – all platforms have abuse reporting systems built into them which are taken very seriously.
Parents should also be aware of the different ways children can be bullied online in order to prevent their child participating in unacceptable social practices or bullying others. If your child is discussing behaviour online which you feel may be inappropriate, it is often best to remain calm and reserve judgement rather than becoming upset right away. In order to uncover the most that you can about the situation and properly assess its seriousness, an open dialogue is imperative. Becoming angry with your child can only lead to a breakdown in communication and a missed opportunity to have a proper talk with them about their lives. Often too, children don’t recognise the impact of their behaviour on others online, as while we are often more connected through technology, there is a large opportunity for a lack of empathy when dealing with another person across the internet.
9 tips for dealing with Cyberbullying:
Never respond to anything that has been said or retaliate by doing the same thing back. Saying something nasty back or posting something in revenge may make things worse by giving the trolls what they want, or even get you in to trouble. If the person who is messing with you sees it isn’t getting the rise they want, they will probably just go away. Trolls enjoy the fight and watching how upset they can make you. Don’t give them what they are seeking from you.
Screenshot anything that you think could be cyber bullying and keep a record of it on your computer. You can use this as evidence later on. (Windows: PrtScn and then paste into Paint Mac: ⌘+Shift+3)
Block and report the offending users to the appropriate social media platform. You can find this information on each platform’s help page – or ask Google! When blocking other users, they do not get a notification of the event, but will be unable to contact you in future. If there are fake profiles of you being made, you can report those profiles as abuse on the platform too.
Talk about it. You may not feel it at the time, but you seriously are not alone. As said previously, a majority of people will go through bullying sometime in their life and may have some advice to offer, or at least provide comfort and friendship. Talking to somebody about bullying not only helps you seek support but it documents evidence and will take a huge weight from your shoulders.
Assess how serious the cyberbullying is. If it is light name calling from somebody that you don’t know, it may just be easier to just report and block that user. If someone is continually bombarding you from all sides, then maybe you need to speak with the police. It’s not OK to feel afraid and sad all the time, and if someone is doing that to you they are breaking the law.
Report it. If you are experiencing cyberbullying from somebody you go to school or college with, report it to a teacher, your school counsellor or child protection officer. If somebody is threatening you, giving out your personal information to others, posting pics of you without consent or making you fear for your safety, contact the Police or as soon as you can.
Be private! We recommend that you keep your social media privacy settings high and do not connect with anybody who you do not know offline (MrC has written about this before here.) People may not always be who they say they are and you could be putting you and those that you care about the most at risk.
Always remember that happy and secure people do not bully others. Most bullies are going through a difficult time themselves and will often need a lot of help and support. If you are being victimised by someone, it is often due to a feeling of powerlessness on their part being directed at you. Making you feel terrible is often a way for those people to make themselves feel better – misery loves company, right? Don’t get sucked into their trap; feel sorry for them instead because they are clearly very unhappy people.
Talk to the bully. Sometimes it helps to request that a teacher or responsible adult hosts a mediation between you and the person who is bullying you online, if they go to the same school or college as you. A mediation can be scary and intense but is often incredibly powerful. It is essentially a face-to-face conversation between you and the bully in a controlled, equal environment which allows them to see that you are a person too and understand how their actions affect you. There will be adults in the room to keep perspective and to provide a safe place for you to discuss the problem openly.
Don’t give up! You are not alone. Lots of people have been bullied and they survived it. At the end of the day, it’s just some very unhappy person trying to spread their unhappiness to you. If you keep on being strong and happy with yourself, who cares what some troll says to try and get a rise out of you? Block them, forget them and keep being awesome day by day.
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here