The winter Olympics are on the tip of everyone’s tongues at the moment. Many of us are tuning in every night to see what’s been happening down on the curling rink, on the skeleton track or just to keep an eye on how many medals GB has secured. Unfortunately, the GB team have been making the news for other reasons. After being disqualified in the speed skating event, Elise Christie has spoken of how she had to de-activate her twitter account because of abuse and threats she had received after being disqualified. Although she didn’t go into the details of what was said to her online, it is clear that this was a form of cyber bullying.
And this is far from an isolated case. The last few years have seen a dramatic rise in the prevalence of cyber-bullying. One particular survey has reported that 38% of the young people they spoke to had been targeted by online bullies. The survey also found that there had been a 7% rise in those receiving counselling for cyber-related incidents. These statistics are shocking.
One of the major issues is that we are noticing a trend where, unlike in the past when bullying was face-to-face, it is now spreading into the world of technology and social media.
Bullying is quickly becoming an online phenomenon where the bullies can sit behind a computer screen and are able to hide their identity. There is also increased access to the victim so bullying can take place at any time of the day. Whereas before the bullies were unable to reach the victim when they were at home, it has become the case now that nowhere is seen as ‘safe’ for the victim.
As the bully has the added protection of anonymity, they may often take the level of abuse further than they intended. Often the victims feel that they do not want to report the abuse as they fear that their technological devices may be taken away as a precaution or punishment.
One thing is clear; with cyber bullying becoming the new trend, the laws surrounding bullying need to adapt to protect young people from this type of abuse. Anti-bullying policies put in place by schools are sometimes outdated, and need to be modernised to reflect this trend. Teachers need to be educated in noticing the signs of this type of bullying, and pupils need to feel that they are able to talk to teachers so that it can be stopped early.
Prevention is key. Early education of young people into recognising if they or a friend are victims of cyber abuse is vital, and educating young people on the impact that online bullying can have is also key so those carrying out the abuse are aware of how their actions can affect others. Another strand that is key to tackling cyberbullying is by improving the laws surrounding it.
With cyberbullying such a huge issue, it is important that policy makers, teachers, parents and the authorities don’t ignore the problem. If we have any hope of addressing the issue, and saving thousands of young people from suffering from this horrific ordeal then it is time to act now.