Cyberbullying is a growing problem in the UK and around the world. This can take many forms and can have long term implications that we are only starting to grasp the extent of. While it may seem like it may not have the same affect on a person because it is behind the veil of a computer screen, the truth is that it can be just as damaging to the victim of the attack. Here are a few things you should know about cyberbullying.
What is Cyberbullying?
One of the first questions many parents ask with this is what does cyberbullying mean? When you look at the cyberbullying definition you will see that this is really no different than any other type of bullying except that it takes place online. The problem with looking at this definition of cyberbullying is that it really does not look at the underlying differences that this form of bullying actually leaves behind.
Unlike bullying in person, cyberbullying is something that can happen at any time of the day. As soon as a person goes online or gets a notification they will be able to see what the bully has posted. In some cases, the content can be deleted, though in other cases it is not that simple. This means that the words, picture or video that is doing the damage is there for the victim to continually look at and see. In a way this is very much like words spoken from a bully being repeated again and again to the person. This can make it even harder for a person to deal with the bullying since there is nothing they can do to change the situation.
This form of bullying is much more public than other types of bullying. Since almost everyone has access to the Internet, it is out there for the world to see. This is also the age of sharing posts and making things to viral. This means that before a person has realised what has been posted about them, everyone they know may have already seen it.
Another difference with cyberbullying is that when people are behind a computer screen, they have a decreased sense of personal responsibility, which makes them act in more heinous ways than they would in the real world. Along with this, bullies often create multiple accounts so if one of the accounts they are using gets blocked, they can always just use another to continue their barrage.
Who Can be a Victim of Cyberbullying?
Most people think of bullying as occurring with younger generations, especially teens and young adults. The truth of the matter is that cyberbullying can happen to anyone at any time. It does not matter what age, gender, race or other qualifier a person has. Here are a few facts about cyberbullying in the UK that you should know:
- 26% of all young people have reported having been the victim of some form of cyber bullying at one point in their life
- 5% of victims in cyber bullying cases self harmed
- 3% of attempted suicides are the result of cyber bullying
- 28% of people have been the victim of cyberbullying on Twitter
- Younger people are twice as likely to be a victim of cyber bullying on Facebook than any other social media site
- On Facebook, the most bullied demographic is 19 year old males
- 20% of children who have been victims of cyber bullying are afraid to go to school for fear of the ridicule they will endure on account of the attack
- Only 37% of victims in cyberbullying ever report it to the site, making it even harder to put a stop to this behavior
There are reports that show that cyberbullying is on the rise. According to BBC News, the charity ChildLine has reported an increase over the last few years in cyberbullying. In 2011-2012 the charity documented 2,410 cases. In 2012-2013, they saw almost double that number at 4,507. In another report released by the charity BeatBullying, that 65% of the bullying cases seen are cyberbullying, with the rest being in person.
The Effects of Cyberbullying
Now the effects that cyberbullying will have on a person are dependent on a number of aspects, specifically in the way the person processes emotional aspects in their life. The degree to which a person may allow the bullying to affect their life will vary but some of the most common effects cyberbullying has on children and teens include:
- A decrease in grades
- A decrease in self esteem
- May start acting out or skipping school
- There is an increased chance of in person bullying- especially if the cyberbullying was visible to the child’s peers
- The child may become withdrawn and not want to go to school or social functions
- In many cases, health problems may even arise
These are often the first signs of bullying that parents notice from their children. They may also notice that their child has had a change in their personality or other indications of bullying. As soon as these signs are noticed, it is important to do something about the situation promptly.
There are several stories of people who have been the victim of cyberbullying. Many you will never hear about. Hannah Smith was a 14 year old girl from Luterworth, Leicestershire who was on the site ask.fm. Here she received many abusive messages that told her to “go get cancer”, “drink bleach” and “die.” Sadly her parents found these messages after they found that their daughter hanged herself.
Ciara Pugsley was a 15 year old girl from Ireland who had everything to live for. She was active in school sports and seemed to enjoy life. She also had an account on Ask.fm and the posts to her on this site made her kill herself. Her body was found in the woods. Another 15 year old to commit suicide after cyberbullying was Joshua Unsworth of Goosnargh. He had suffered ongoing cyberbullying and even made an anti-suicide video a few months before he hanged himself behind his home.
Methods of Cyberbullying
There are many different methods that cyberbullying can take on. Each of these can be damaging to any person’s emotional well being and are never acceptable. However, it is important to understand the issues that your child or teen may face so that you can know how to handle the different situations.
Direct Message Bullying
This is when a person will send a person a direct message that is insulting or even threatening. In some cases this may be from someone the person knows or it may even be from a complete stranger. This can happen on just about any social media site as well as on instant messaging services. When it occurs on social media sites, the best way to handle the situation is to block the person that is bullying. Unfortunately, this may become a recurring problem if the bully is persistent and continues to use different accounts. Keep in mind that direct messages can also take the form of text messages as well.
This is a huge problem in the UK with cyber attacks. Bullies will often hack into an account of a person and pretend to be them by posting things they may not want others to know. With the new implementations to sites such as Facebook, this can allow the bully to post pictures and videos without the person’s permission. Getting the account back can be difficult, especially if the bully changes the password to something that the person does not know. This is why it is important to have a strong and secure password. Use different passwords on each site and stress the importance of keeping passwords private, even from friends and significant others.
Starting Rumours or Gossip
Rumours and gossip are normal with teens, though people of all age can love to gossip. However, when scandalous posts, especially those that are not true, are posted online, it can be devastating to those involved. Even if the rumours are true, it is often confidential information that a person may not want to get out, which can be just as humiliating for those involved.
This is a serious issue, especially considering that it is illegal. There are laws that prevent people from causing distress and alarm over the phones and internet. Along with this, the Harassment Act of 1997 also helps to protect people from situations such as this. If you or someone you know is being threatened by someone else online, the best thing you can do is print out the online conversation and take it to the authorities. If you cannot see a way to print out the page, simply hit print screen as this is essentially a screen shot that you can then paste into a Word document or even paint to save.
This goes right along with threats, as it is also illegal. The problem is that it often is more personal than threats are. In many cases, the bully in these situations is someone who was once close with the victim, either a best friend or boyfriend or girlfriend. They usually have something incriminating, such as information or a picture that the person does not want to get out. Then a demand is made with the threat of releasing this private information. It is important to note that when you have pictures or videos saved on your mobile devices or computers, if they are not stored securely, then hackers can get to this information which could open you up to being a victim of cyberbullying.
These are often the most common forms of cyberbullying out there. This is because people, often referred to as internet trolls, love to say horrible things to others simply to get a rise out of them. While the other person gets a rise out of it, the victim is left demoralized and in some cases, others may join in with the nasty comments. The best thing to do in these cases is delete the comments, block the offenders and if the situation continues, then report the abuse on the site. Almost all social media sites out there have specific rules and policies in place to handle bullying.
Whether it is naked pictures or an embarrassing picture, if it is something you do not want the world to see and someone posts it anyway, then it can be considered cyberbullying- if it is done in a malicious manner. There is a huge push in schools to educate children about the dangers of posting unwanted pictures of people online. In many cases, the bully may tag person just so all of the person’s friends can see the picture. Even if the person is not tagged, the picture is still out there and may stay online forever. There are ways to get it removed, but the best course of action is to be careful about the pictures you are taking in the first place.
This is a term that is used to describe a physical attack, generally one or more persons, hitting someone who has no clue what is about to happen while someone else films the incident. They then post the video online for the world to see. Not only is the victim physically injured in this incident- and in some cases even killed- they must also then relive the ordeal online. You should know that this is an illegal action that is actually a combination of several criminal offences.
How to Support a Victim of Cyberbullying
If your child or someone else you care about is the victim of cyberbullying, one of the best things you can do is to be there to support them through this time. This can be a difficult time for anyone and having someone that loves and cares for them can be a tremendous help. There are a few other things you can do to help the person through this.
The first thing you will want to do is find a way to stop the abuse. This will be different depending on the type of cyberbullying that is occurring. For instance, if your teen is receiving nasty direct messages from someone, then simply block the person and then print out the offending information so that you can report it to the police. While reporting the incident to the police will not make the issue disappear, it is the first step to resolving the problem.
It can also be helpful to find a support group for the person. There are many groups, both in local cities as well as online, where people can get together to discuss bullying. It can be a helpful way for your child to work through the emotions that they are feeling with this. Even though they may know that mean comments said about them are untrue, the words can still hurt long after the incident is over with.
When looking at the cyberbullying facts, it is easy to see that this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Make sure that you help your child to understand online dangers and how they can help keep from becoming a victim of cyberbullying. While there is no way to prevent this from ever happening, there are things you can do to avoid it. If you or someone you love is experiencing cyberbullying, call the helpline for bullying at 0808 800 2222 today.