The disturbing news footage that emerged yesterday surrounding the Syrian child in Huddersfield being bullied in the school playground highlights once again the need to address all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying.
A growing concern about cyberbullying led The Duke of Cambridge to set up the Cyberbullying Taskforce in 2016, an initiative that included leading tech companies and experts in the field of children, the internet and mental health. The Taskforce has since launched several programmes to tackle bullying, including the Code of Conduct ‘Stop Seek Support’. Summarising the Taskforce’s achievements earlier this month (during Anti-Bullying Week), the Duke believes that more can be done, “Social media companies have done more to connect the world than has ever been achieved in human history. Surely you can connect with each other about smart ways to deal with the unintended consequences of these connections?”. The Taskforce has worked with the BBC to develop a new internet safety app called ‘Own It’ which will be launched next year.
Family Kids & Youth’s qualitative and quantitative research on behalf of The Cyberbullying Taskforce found that young people are reluctant to admit to bullying and that there is a fine line between ‘banter’ and ‘bullying’. The research found:
- It is clear that the personal nature of cyberbullying is particularly hurtful.
- It is especially bad if the perpetrator is not known to the victim.
- Many young people believe that there is a general reluctance to admit incidents of cyberbullying to their family or teachers – for fear of escalation.
- Embarrassment about the nature of the bullying (e.g. sexting, inappropriate pictures, language used etc.) compound the problem, and add to the sense that they are somehow to blame.
- Young people find it difficult to define bullying – phrases or words such as ‘picked on’ or ‘banter’ are frequently used in place of ‘bullying’.
- Often what might be described as cyberbullying therefore is not called that by young people.
- There is a strong feeling that young people bully online because they think they can ‘get away with it’.
- There is consensus however that the issue is out of control and needs tackling, although young people recognise it is a difficult issue to tackle.
- There is particular concern about the current issue of ‘Bait-Out’ accounts – i.e. local gossip which is anonymous and can frequently become personally abusive to named individuals but viewed by many. All young people in our workshops appeared to follow them but were often shocked by their abusive nature. Teachers know of them but feel helpless to prevent their use.
Family Kids & Youth’s current research is focusing on Children’s Mental Health and the Internet; we are finding that many of the issues identified above are still a concern for young people. Our findings from this research will be published in January 2019.