According to Anti Bullying Alliance almost half of all children and young people say they have been bullied at some point at school.
Hannah Smith, who committed suicide earlier this month at 14-years-old, is the latest in a long line of victims tormented by online bullies. Cyber bullying can reach a much wider audience through the use of forums, social networks and websites, and teenagers aged between 13-17 are the most vulnerable group in today’s society due to the widespread development and access to technology.
‘Lisa’, a victim on online bullying, said her ordeal started when she was 16.
She said:“It all started because I was the new person in the class and because I was from another college. I didn’t make any friends in the first couple of weeks so I was picked on; they made fun of my accent and teased me because I was an outsider.”
Lisa’s bullying not only extended from physical bullying but to online and through social media sites.
She continued: “They would write nasty comments on my profile and say mean things about my family on the uploaded pictures; they encouraged others to make comments and threats about me too, allowing everyone on my friends list to see the comments. I reported them to social media to have them removed from the site but it took a few weeks to get them taken off.”
Lisa recommended others who are being bullied online to seek help and most importantly tell someone as she did.
“I didn’t know who to speak to luckily my old friends from college were there for me. I couldn’t tell my parents but they realised I wasn’t my normal self when I had terrible mood swings and stopped going to college after a while, my parents spoke to me and I told them everything about the online bullying”.
Johnny who created an anonymous profile online and started to bully others on the social media sites tells us his experience of being the bully and the other side of the story.
He said: “I started to bully this small group of people in the last year of secondary school just because they were quiet and I knew they would not do anything back so I thought I would torment them online by nasty messages and threatening them. Just because I thought it would be funny and entertaining for me. The people I bullied started not showing up to school and they missed one of their important GCSE exams, I realised by the end of the year why am I doing this because they were quiet so I stopped. I got nothing out of bullying; I was losing friends and could see that it was having a major impact on the victims. I do regret bullying those people online because you realise you are not pushing others out the way you are pushing yourself away”.
Andrew Vint, a youth worker at Warrington Youth Club which works with people aged from 7 to 25. Vint discusses what the charity does to help those being bullied and the bullies themselves.
He said: “We offer support and channel people into, who have been the victims of bulling: we have things like Girls Group, the Loud and Clear programme, the Men’s Health Group. We also have external organisations that come into the centre and tackle such issues in small and large groups. We try to deal with the root cause, as well as re-educate those who were the bullies as well. It’s kind of like a double edge sword”.
Warrington Youth Club currently delivers a range of evening, weekend and holiday projects, the Loud & Clear programme which focuses especially on child protection and safeguarding. Vint explains that this is a skill children need to learn and be aware of.
He stated: “I think the way we look at how societies going, a lot of negativity amongst young people, often when I witnessed young people engaging and communicating they are quick to blame other people and knowing child protection and child safeguarding I feel there is only ever gonna add to their awareness and their insight in understanding that they have a voice, that they don’t have to be victim. It’s something that is needed in this present time”.
Youth clubs are a great way for teenagers to get support with Vint experiencing cases of bullying at the youth club.
“We have had a few incidents at the centre, a lot of the time we come across these things and we actually go on to behavioural contracts because we need to put them in place of structure and support. They need to be very clear boundaries once they have stepped over that line to actually bully another young person or press another young person. We go straight into behavioral contracts”.
A recent study commissioned by Anti-Bullying Alliance shows that over half of children and young people in the UK see cyber bullying as a “everyday problem’ of daily life.
“The media aren’t a nasty thing, used correctly it can be an awesome communication tool; it can be an awesome way to promote and to get information. Unfortunately, aspects of the world have incorporated bad parts to it and unfortunately these are accessible. What we hope to do is not irradiate the elements of badness and use it all”.
BBC research shows that cyber bullying is common among teenagers with at least 1 in 5 having been a victim. Cyber bullying is different from other forms of bullying- tactics can often be hidden and more subtle so it’s sometimes difficult to detect.
The wider search powers included in the Education Act 2011 gives teachers stronger powers to tackle cyber-bullying Alex Roseburn, a secondary school teacher in London discusses how teachers have more control with electronic devices and how their school in particular is dealing with online bullying.
She said: “They wouldn’t be allowed to have them in the classroom, I think children are losing the art of communicating and the skills for conversation with one another due to the phones and texting and emails.
I think it might be impossible for schools to prevent cyber bullying happening in the school. Obviously they will monitor computer use and if children feel cyber bullying is happening to them that they have got appropriate adults that can deal with the situation”.
Cyber bullying is a different form of bullying and can happen at all times of the day with bullying occurring outside the school and in the privacy of your own home.
She continued “Pupils if they are being bullied online need to speak out; they need to tell adults, tell the teachers, tell parents. Get in touch with the social networks and report what’s happening to them. Get on to the phone manufacturers get these people blocked from incoming texts and emails and in extreme cases to inform the police.
“Schools need to highlight this problem to show that it is going on and take responsibility for it. Children should be safeguarded whether they are in school or outside of school. The school should create an ethos where adults are approachable and children can trust in the adults to deal with issues that are going on like this”.
The recent announcement by Facebook that users have changed their settings to share posts on the internet rather than “friends” or “friends of friends” and let strangers view personal content allowing younger people to be more acceptable to online bullying.
Roseburn stated: “We have to teach youngsters to be vigilant with what they put on these sites so they are not putting themselves at risk to more online threats”.
Support Line, a confidential emotional support for children, young adults and adults, who help in excess over 5,000 cases a year, explain their range of issues that help and support victims of bullying.
Support Line stated: “We provide emotional support to anyone who is being bullied, and also signposting to other means of support, e.g. face to face counselling and other bullying resources. With raised awareness of Anti Bullying Week we expect to receive more requests for help in relation to this issue.
“Many schools deny bullying is happening in their school –raising awareness of the effects of bullying, having buddying schemes where older children can monitor what is happening and anyone being bullied can talk to them as some are reluctant to talk to staff, putting structures in place to deal with the bully and find out why the person is bullying”.
Teenagers need help and support from charities such as Support Line by hoping for a better future, victim Lisa states.
“Most importantly no matter what age you are you can still get bullied whether it’s in school, college or in the workplace it occurs everywhere and at every age with everyone going through it at some point in his or her life. To resolve any form or extent of bullying you need to report it”.