Imagine if you constantly had someone whispering hateful comments in your ear. Like the devil perched on your shoulder. There is no getting rid of him, he will always be there to put you down, you have no escape.
This is what cyberbullying feels like. The comments pop up every time you log into your Facebook profile or upload a new photo to your Instagram.
With so many social media platforms, cyber bullying is increasing as more and more people hide behind their computer and mobile phone screens.
So, how are we going to control this 21st century nightmare?
A report carried out earlier this year, in the UK, shows that, out of 1,696 internet users that are 16 years old and above, 80% of them believe that social media can have a negative effect on a person’s mental health.
Cyberbullying can affect all kinds of people from all walks of life.
Celebrities are repeatedly reported in the news for quitting specific social media platforms to avoid more trolling.
Even though there currently isn’t any specific law that covers cyber bullying. People are still encouraged to report any type of online bullying to the police.*
Additionally, there are many websites and organisations that provide support and information for parents and schools.
Childline is another organisation that offers support for children and young adults if they ever need it.
From a Childline report, it showed that bullying, both online and face-to-face, was one of the top ten topics that children and young people have spoken to them about in 2018/19.
Carmel Glassbrook, a Helpline Project Leader for UK Safer Internet Centre, said: “For young people that have grown up online, the internet is their world too, so bullying is just as impactful as if it was happening offline.”
Watch this video to hear what Middlesbrough’s MP Andy McDonald has to say about cyberbullying:
The internet controls so many of our lives. Are we able to live without it?
An Ofcom report, in 2018, shows that 64% of adults say the internet is an essential part of their life. One in five adults say that they spend more than 40 hours a week online.
Social media plays a big part in our addiction. With 45 million active social media users in the UK alone.
Ms Glassbrook said: “I think social media platforms already do quite a lot to tackle abuse and bullying, however a lot of users do not know about the settings and functions in place to help them, so do not use them.”
“Facebook, for example, cannot control people’s behaviour, but they can put measures in place that allow users to report content, block other users and manage their own privacy.”
Linda James MBE, Founder/CEO of Bullies Out, said: “All social media organisations need to ensure they have robust policies in place that identify how users of their sites will be protected against bullying, harassment and abuse.”
“Communication is vital and when a person reports an incident of bullying or harassment , the social media site needs to acknowledge and record the incident and regularly communicate with the individual until the matter is resolved.
“Users who continue to bully and harass via social media should be given a long-term ban.”
Mr McDonald said: “I think that it is pretty self-evident that Facebook and Twitter simply haven’t taken their responsibility seriously thus far.”
“They allow all manner of entries to be posted and they have the ability, with their algorithms, to detect these things and to block them.
“When complaints have been made, they have not been quick enough to shut things down and remove things from sites. They need to do a great deal more.”
The effects of cyberbullying.
Ms Glassbrook, said:”Bulling or cyberbullying can have a hugely negative impact on an individual’s self-confidence, esteem and sense of wellbeing.”
“Cyberbullying can be really awful in that it doesn’t stop. If you were getting bullied at school, at least home would be a safe place, but now with connected devices the bullying goes home with you, your safe place is no longer.”
Ms James said: “It is important for people to talk about cyber-bullying because online bullying, like other kinds of bullying, can lead to serious long-lasting problems.”
“It can affect a person’s social, emotional and academic well-being and can lead to self-harm, anxiety, depression and suicide.
“When a person is bullied online, their pain and humiliation can be viewed by thousands in minutes as it can ‘go viral’.
“With mobile technology being so freely available, it is an ongoing issue and one that is relentless.”
What does the future look like for cyberbullying?
Ms Glassbrook believes the government should be reducing bullying through education.
She said: “Investing in schools so that they in turn can invest in student’s well-being, bullies are less likely to bully if they are happy and have good self –esteem.”
“The more people become aware of the support, functions and help available to them hopefully cyberbullying will become less impactful.”
Ms James believes the problem will continue.
She said: “As more and more young people have access to and use technology, there will be ways to bullying online.”
“We are now seeing children as young as 8 or 9 with mobile phones and for those being bullied, it’s like carrying a ‘bully’ around with you.
“Today’s young people are born into a world where advanced technology exists and unlike their parents and many educators, have never experienced a world without it.
“However, with rights come responsibilities and as we promote the use of technology, it is important to highlight the responsibilities that must come in tandem with these rights.”
The online world, like a fantasy world, can be magical and adventurous.
However, this world can also come with its challenges.
Cyberbullying is something that can and should be controlled.
How are we going to stop cyberbullying?
*If you have ever experienced cyberbullying please contact your local police station or visit the Childline website for more information.