This week is Anti-Bullying Week, and the theme for 2020 is ‘United Against Bullying’. Making a stand requires all of us - parents, teachers and young people - working together to recognise bullying in all its forms, and call it out whenever we see it. At Natterhub, we are all united against bullying.
Bullying is an age-old problem for children all over the world, but the digital age - especially in the current pandemic - has put a much bigger emphasis on cyberbullying. The anti-bullying charity ‘Ditch the Label’ found that one in five young people was a victim of bullying in the past year alone.
What does cyberbullying look like?
Just like ‘offline’ bullying, cyberbullying takes many forms. It can come from people that we don’t know, or it can come from people we thought were close friends. Cyberbullying can include:
- Exclusion: Leaving someone out of a game, taking a photo without them in it, or not inviting them to an event.
- Doxxing: Sharing someone’s private information without their consent, usually in order to publicly embarrass them.
- Harassment: Sending hurtful or threatening messages to someone on a regular basis.
- Impersonation: Pretending to be someone else online in order to post embarrassing things in their name. This is sometimes known as “Fabotage” (Facebook sabotage).
- Trolling: Posting comments online in order to deliberately upset somebody, or provoke an argument.
How’s it different from offline bullying?
Cyberbullying is fundamentally different from ‘traditional’, offline bullying. It takes different forms, it can have devastating effects, and can require a fundamentally different approach. Here are just a few of the things we need to consider when we think about cyberbullying:
- Cyberbullying can be 24/7
Children can get a break from offline bullying; at the weekends, or during holidays, they often don’t have to see their bullying. But we spend our days with our devices at our fingertips, so cyberbullying can follow someone anywhere they go.
- Cyberbullying is often spontaneous
Offline bullying is usually premeditated and planned out in advance. If a cyberbully sees someone in their social media feed, it can be much easier to choose to harass them on the spur of the moment.
- Anonymity makes cyberbullying harder to confront
It’s very easy for cyberbullies to pretend to be another person (or multiple people) by creating fake profiles and hiding their steps. As we saw above, cyberbullies can even pretend to be the person they’re bullying.
- It’s easy to pretend cyberbullying isn’t bullying
Because cyberbullying doesn’t happen face-to-face, it creates a layer of separation between the bully and the victim. It’s much more likely that a cyberbully can justify their actions as ‘just a joke’ without considering the impact they might have.
- Cyberbullying can have a much bigger audience
Being bullied in front of your friends, or other pupils in the playground, can be embarrassing. But cyberbullying has the potential to go viral, and be seen by huge numbers of people all over the world - who may share it further without thinking about the feelings of the victim.
- Cyberbullying can last longer
As we often say at Natterhub, the internet is written in ink. It can be very difficult to completely get rid of something that’s posted online. Even if you get the post removed, there’s always the possibility that someone has saved a screenshot of it.
- Cyberbullying can be harder to track
It can be difficult to identify a case of cyberbullying when it happens; either because the victim feels like they can’t talk to someone they trust, or because trusted adults don’t have the tech skills to fully understand what’s been happening.
How can we prevent cyberbullying?
What to do if you think your child is being cyberbullied
If you think your child is the victim of cyberbullying, this blog post
gives you some signs to look out for, as well as 10 easy steps to tackle it.
Addressing the reasons people become bullies
Bullying doesn’t happen in a vacuum. In fact, lots of people who start out as victims become perpetrators themselves; often it’s a way of masking or avoiding issues in their own lives, though it never lasts long. If we know people who engage in cyberbullying, we can offer to help them work through their problems in a more constructive way; snide comments or trolling people online will do little to make them feel better in the long term .
Raising the profile of kindness
On a wider scale, the biggest change we can make is to raise the profile of kindness in the primary school curriculum; especially when it comes to the ways we interact with each other in a digital context. In this blog
we talk about the tangible effects that kindness can have on humans, and give some suggestions for how we can ‘teach’ it at home and in the classroom.