Lockdowns and e-learning ‘may have exacerbated cyberbullying’
While the lockdowns have provided respite from bullying for many children, for some the taunts have moved online, analysis by the NSPCC has shown.
Cyberbullying is the act of harassing someone online, including sending threatening messages, sharing videos without consent, making harmful comments, and doxxing.
Helen Westerman, NSPCC’s head of local campaigns and spokesperson for Childline, says lockdowns and e-learning may have exacerbated the problem.
“Children may have been bullied face-to-face, before the lockdown. It has moved online,” she says.
“So the fact that they were home and it was online made it even more compelling.
“They were spending more time online, working, maybe keeping in touch with family, having fun. And so we’re on tech all the time, and if you’re being bullied, it’s pretty awful.
“We know this can happen to any child at any time. There is no blueprint for bullying, so anyone can be bullied.
Cyberbullying was a huge problem before the pandemic.
A survey of 11-25 year olds in 2017 found that 68% had been cyberbullied in the previous year, according to YoungMinds.
Helen stresses that cyberbullying needs to be taken more seriously.
“If there isn’t a culture of taking this seriously and seeing it as the equivalent of face-to-face bullying or other forms of abuse, then it’s really difficult for the person who is the victim.”
I first called Childline when I was 14. I was happy until then and really enjoyed learning.
It all started falling apart after I had an argument with a friend at school over something stupid.
We had talked about it and I thought we had worked things out.
But shortly after, I was told that she had created a Facebook group about me called “we wish Emma was dead”.
I didn’t believe it at first and when I realized it was true I was shocked and broke down.
I had been bullied face to face before, but it was on a much larger scale as the Facebook group was shared for everyone to see.
Lots of people also added their own horrible comments. In the end, we had to ask the school to make the girl delete the Facebook group in front of the principal, because she refused to do so when we asked her.
She was supposed to be one of my best friends, so for her to stab me in the back in such a public way was devastating.
I was so upset that I cut myself off from my family and didn’t want to talk to anyone anymore.
I dreaded going to school because I also saw the bullies there and they often followed me home. He completely took over my life.
By this point, I had gotten so low that I felt suicidal. I didn’t want to be there anymore because things were so difficult – when I told my mother that, it really scared her.
My parents didn’t know how to help me but my mum encouraged me to talk to Childline – she said they were confidential so I got in touch using their 1 to 1 chat service which which was easier than talking to someone on the phone. .
ChildLine gave me someone to talk to who could support me and didn’t judge me.
The counselors were really nice and they seemed really interested in me.
Childline helped me come to terms with the fact that I felt suicidal which enabled me to begin to deal with it.
They gave me advice on how I could get through things and encouraged me to try to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
I was able to go at my own pace and they didn’t push me to speak until I was ready.
They showed me that my experiences could bring good and told me that I could grow as a person because of it.
I spoke to them several times and it was nice to be able to get back to them when I needed to talk.
The counselors encouraged me to tell my parents about my suicidal feelings, which I did.
Being open to my family gave them a better understanding of how they could support me. From that moment, my mother and my father helped me to rebuild myself.
My family really rallied around me and it brought us closer.
They encouraged me to start volunteering for cadets, which helped me make new friends away from what had happened. It gave me something to focus on.
My advice to young people who are feeling suicidal is to tell someone.
Talk to Childline – they were a friend to me and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here today. I might never have told my family what was going on and I would have struggled to get through things.
It was a horrible experience, but it helped me learn that I can be strong and not let people get to me. It made me want to surpass myself and get to where I am today.
I’ve come such a long way that I’m now training to be a police officer.
*This is a true story but names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved
Dealing with cyberbullying – advice from the NSPCC
Schools need to ensure they have trusted adults in place so children can speak up if they are being bullied.
Children can also contact Childline to speak to someone anonymously.
Parents need to be there for their children, take their concerns seriously, and let them know they are available to talk.
Helen advises parents to remove as much emotion from the situation as possible when dealing with cyberbullying.
“We’ve noticed that it’s really helpful for the child to come forward and tell their parent that they’re being cyberbullied, for the parent to try to keep their emotion out of their response initially.”
She advises parents against requiring “the child to hand over their phone or stop going to that particular site because we know from kids that maybe it stops them talking next time about what’s happening to them because they fear that their technology will be taken one way.”
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