… and this time there’s no teachers to intervene.
The classic image of bullying: a group of children in a school yard picking on the smaller/fatter/geekier/poorer/glasses and braces kid (delete as appropriate).
The one smidgen of hope a bullied child has at the moment they’re surrounded by a group of their leering peers is that a teacher will notice and put a stop to it.
The taunts come from the groups hive like mind, jeers all along the same theme.
Now let’s bring bullying into the 21st Century. Let’s put it online and let’s make it anonymous.
That child, the one that’s being bullied, is no longer face to face with people they know and see every day.
The bullied child is alone, in a bedroom, with a laptop or smart phone.
They don’t know who is on the other end of that question. Could it be someone from school? How about the boy down the road? Maybe it’s someone who is supposed to be a friend. Maybe they’re the other side of the world, they don’t know you, all they know is how worthless a human being you are….
Where’s the teacher’s pet running to tell tales now?
Where are the teachers?
Something which started by passing a note in class, moved onto Facebook with the more transparent “Inbox me a question and I’ll answer it on my profile”, has suddenly grown into the monster under your bed – you don’t know what it looks like but you know it’s out there.
And it’s not just children and teenagers who are falling victim to cyber bullying; bullies and trolls will target anyone. It’s not always personal, but to the victim it’s always personal.
Why do people put themselves through it?
Simply, it’s gratifying.
A boy in your class could say they have a crush on you, or a stranger could say you look good (grooming and sexting are a different matter entirely, but not unrelated when dealing with teens and social media).
We want to express ourselves and the best way to do that seems to be online.
So what can be done?
- Take away the ability to be anonymous
- Make it easier to report bullying
- Work closer with police to bring about convictions
- Know which websites your children are on and check their privacy settings
- Make yourself aware of what happens on these websites
- Talk openly to your children about bullying – let them know it’s never their fault
Teachers and youth workers:
- Show teenagers why e-safety is important – what are the consequences?
- Let them know they can come to you for advice and support
- Make sure your privacy settings are up to scratch so you don’t become a target
Report, block and report again
If you become a target for cyber bullying, don’t let it get you down. You’re not alone and there are people who can help.
- Report the user to the site
- Block them (if possible)
- Report it to the police (screengrabs of the user’s profile and any comments they’ve posted about you will help)
- Talk to someone, a trusted friend, parent, the Samaritans or ChildLine
- If it becomes too much, delete your account and start afresh.