Cyber Bullying in the UK: ‘Sexting’ and Sexual Bullying
Access to adult pornography is not the only way children in the UK can be exposed to inappropriate sexual content online. Sexting – sending messages or images with sexual content via mobile phones or the internet – is a widening avenue by which cheap, gratuitous, and often unsolicited, sexual material is reaching young people. What is more, it is children themselves recording and circulating the images
BeatBullying’s August 2009 report revealed that a third of children have received a message and a quarter received an image on the subject of sex. While a small proportion of these ‘sexts’ were from an unknown source or were spam, the vast majority, 85%, were identified as sent by someone the recipient knew. These senders were largely from the opposite sex.
As The Guardian reported, one 14-year old girl sent an explicit photo to her then boyfriend because ‘he said he loved me and if I cared about him, I’d do it… After I sent him that picture, he ignored me and put [it] up on Bebo and Facebook saying I was easy’
In more extreme cases of Cyber Bullying in the UK, the sexual solicitations between young people can lead to offline encounters and statutory rape. In May 2009, for example, The Daily Mail reported that a group of teenagers were sentenced to six years in jail for the rape of an under-18 year old in Essex. The three defendants first met the girl two years prior to the crime, when they began chatting to her on Bebo and Facebook.
Cyber Bullying in the UK: More serious consequences…
“You should go and kill yourself because you don’t mean anything to anyone.”
When 14-year-old Carney Bonner read this Facebook message, he was so distressed that he began to self-harm. The cyber-bullying continued for a year, by a bully who he believes created an account under a false name. Carney, who described himself as “loud” and “always outgoing”, was initially unfazed. At first he thought it was a joke, but then the messages became more abusive. It started eating into his self-confidence, and it all started going downhill,
“Things would have got a lot worse if one of my friends hadn’t seen my wrists,” he said. Now, Bonner is a Cyber-Mentor, according to the BBC.
In another story, two sixteen year old girls from Blackburn, Lancs, tricked a girl into believing she had an online boyfriend, imaginary Jaydon Rothwell, all through a three-month hoax relationship. The bullies even got a pal to pretend to be Jaydon and meet the girl in a park. She said it was dark, she was drunk and he looked similar to his Facebook picture. They kissed and she went home delighted.
What followed was convincing her that he had killed himself, and the bullies sent the traumatized fifteen year old threatening calls, texts and Facebook messages, accusing her of driving him to suicide. After police investigations, no reports of sudden deaths were found, and the girls were arrested and made to apologize for causing harm to the victim who was made to feel so gullible. The hoax revealed itself to be revenge for the girl being involved with one of the bullies’ ex-boyfriends.
It can get even scarier.
According to the cyber bullying charity the Cybersmile Foundation, every 20 minutes a child between 10 to 19 years of age attempts to commit suicide in England and Wales, while one in three children in the UK suffers from cyber-bullying.
Although the famous Amanda Todd suicide happened in Canadian province British Columbia, the UK has been no exception to the tragic consequences that accompany chronic child depression. In 2009, 15-year old schoolgirl Megan Gillan took a fatal overdose of painkillers in June after bullies waged a hate campaign against her on Bebo, the popular SNS. Two months later, another 15-year old girl, Holly Grogan, jumped to her death after being bullied on Facebook.
In June 2008, a bright 13-year-old who loved music, video games and football, Sam Leeson, was subject to a campaign by internet bullies that drove him to suicide. He was targeted because of his taste in music and love of wearing black clothes. Sam hanged himself in his bedroom after months of being bombarded by cruel jibes on Bebo, for being “emo” as they called him.
Beyond the tragedy of a life so cruelly cut short, the fact that these young people felt they had no alternative but to commit suicide should surely awaken us to the acute child-on-child violence made possible by cyber bullying.