Cyberbullying: why it sucks

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November 2016 is Actionwork’s Anti-Bullying Month, with Anti-Bullying Week taking place from 14-18 November. Bullying is a nation-wide issue, with 1.5 million young people experience being bullied in the past year. Cyberbullying is a particularly prominent, more modern form of bullying that disproportionately affects girls. I myself have been the victim of anonymous hate and trolling online when I was younger, and it was an awful experience. We, as young women, need to work together to stop bullying in all forms, especially cyberbullying.

Why does bullying need to stop?

Bullying itself is upsettingly common. Almost all of my group of friends from school were bullied at some point in their life, from teasing to full-on exclusion. Being a girl meant that bullying was much more covert than it was with boys at school, who more often engaged in physical fighting and name-calling rather than gossiping. A lot of this would never even be classed as bullying as it was so commonplace. 57% of girls have been bullied, compared to 44% of boys, and almost half of those bullied go on to experience mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. We must take steps to address this problem – especially with the number of girls and young women being disproportionately affected.

My experience of cyberbullying.

kindnessCyberbullying is defined as a form of bullying that takes place online or on smartphones. It’s becoming increasingly common as more and more young people have access to the internet and have smartphones. 56% of young people say they’ve been bullied online, and it can take different forms – harassment, impersonation, exclusion, trolling, or blackmail. All forms are serious and should be treated as crimes.

My own experience with online harassment is somewhat extensive, sadly. When I was 15, someone made a Twitter account under an alias in order to target me, troll me, send me insults and harass me, and ruin my friendships. They knew an unnerving amount about me, and I had no idea who they were – which was the scariest part. Every time I reported their account, they would make a new one. They began to send inappropriate messages to my friends, asking them for nude pictures (bearing in mind we were 15). I ended up deleting my Twitter account for a few months to get away from it all. After some time they stopped harassing me. To this day I still have no idea who they were, and it was a pretty harrowing experience that has shaped the way I act online now. In 2010 I also had a negative experience with the online question site Formspring- a website that allows you to send anonymous questions to other people. Younger girls at my school targeted me and sent me rude and insulting messages about me, my friends and my body. Thankfully I found out who it was and it stopped, however, it was still a really difficult experience.

In both of cases, my school couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do anything because it didn’t take place in school. In the first case, I couldn’t prove whether the harasser was a pupil or not. I also didn’t consider either of them serious enough to report to the police, even though I later learned that they were crimes.

What can we do about it?

There are a number of things we can do to try and stop bullying and cyberbullying. There are numerous charities dedicated to combat all forms of bullying, such as Ditch the Label, Bullying UKLGBT Youth Scotland,  Kidscape, and respectme in Scotland. They run numerous campaigns, fundraisers and events to try and stop bullying in the UK. Reclaim the Internet is a campaign started by Yvette Cooper MP, which is about stopping all forms of abuse and harassment online, including that aimed at women and girls such as cyberbullying, threats and revenge porn. I urge everyone to sign up to the campaign, spread the word using Twitter and take action to help stop cyberbullying in all its forms. It simply can’t go on.

[Feature Image source: Linus Bohman] [Image source: Tim Green]

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fullsizeoutput_d0cIsla Whateley is one of our fantastic blogging network members. She is 20 years old and has been blogging on and off for four years. She studies anthropology at Edinburgh University and previously been involved in Girlguiding’s advocacy work.

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