Research from Public Health England in 2017 showed that 17.9% of 11-15 year olds reported being cyber bullied in the two months prior to being surveyed. So clearly, cyber bullying is an issue.
In fact many people are observing that bullying is far more wide spread online. Kids can no longer escape torment when the school bell rings. It affects your social life and your social life is now online. How many people like your status or your picture? Social pressures are just made worse.
Online bullying vs offline bullying
People are asking whether cyber bullying continues into real life but, to children, there is no line between the two. Unlike for many of us adults, where going online is an event, separate from our real lives, to the children of today, the internet is an extension of their life. Harassment they receive online very much has the same affect of traditional bullying, so it’s time we stop addressing the two as though they are completely different matters.
To further drive home this point, the strong connection between offline and online bullying was researched by Warwick University in 2017. They found that most bullying begins face to face and online bullying is used as a “modern tool” to complement traditional forms.
Additionally, they found that 29% of teenagers in the UK reported being bullied. However, only 1% of those were victims of solely online bullying. So clearly, the line between offline and online bullying has been blurred into non-existence.
So, what can we do?
Well, on the one hand, cyber bullying presents some unique challenges. Firstly, those doing the bullying have the option to hide behind anonymity, making finding those responsible rather tricky.
Secondly, the victim of online abuse is subject to a much wider audience, making it’s affects on them much harsher. This isn’t to mention the fact that bullying online can be done 24/7; like we said before, the school bell no longer provides a respite from abuse.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. A lot of bullying online is not done anonymously and therefore has the added benefit of giving us something not always available in cases of offline bullying… evidence. Victims of online abuse can now screenshot evidence to be shown to their parents, teachers and caregivers.
The key is communication. Research by Public Health England in 2017 showed that a number of the protective factors that reduce young people’s risk of bullying online come down to communication and trust.
When children have good communication with their family and strong trust in their peers and teachers at school, they feel much safer coming forward early about incidents of bullying. This is especially true in the case of schools, who have been shown to have the biggest impact on whether a young person will experience bullying online.
In conclusion, Anti-Bullying week is not just about driving home the message that it’s wrong to bully. It’s about showing children everywhere that it’s OK to speak up, because clear communication and trust are the best ways to pro-actively tackle bullying.
Given the strong impact good relationships in schools can have on whether a young person becomes a victim of bullying, it is clear that the importance of Anti-Bullying week has never been higher.
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