Cyberbullying – The realities and coping mechanisms for young people and adults
Bullying in its many forms can affect children in varied ways. Some like myself only encounter short periods in their life when this happens, and the majority develop coping strategies and the period ends. For others though the impact can be massive. In earlier years before the growth of technology a lot of bullying happened in school and at the school gates. It often became visible and teachers managed to deal with the fallout and apply relevant discipline (although sometimes they inadvertently made the bullying worse).
What about bullying today? Of course, it still goes on in schools and the problem it seems will always persist. Has technology changed this? I would suggest that the answer is very much yes. Not so much in its basic form, after all bullying is bullying but there is now an added extra dimension – Online (or cyber) bullying.
How has tech affected bullying? Once past the school gates in earlier days you were past the bullies and home was often a refuge to sort out your feelings and, although worrying still came into place, often home was a sanctuary where the issues could be left behind for a while. Now we have the tentacles of the internet. The bully can be present in gaming arenas, on social networks, streaming services and instant messengers amongst just a few of the online spaces that can be invaded.
Bullying can now be 24hrs, the bully can be physically smaller than the victim, the bullying incident (and possible embarrassment) can be spread rapidly amongst peer groups, friends, and schoolmates. The victim cannot be seen therefore the impact if serious is not witnessed by the bully, taking away any understanding of the impact they have. Bullies can hide behind anonymity and encourage online bystanders to join in. They can affect self-esteem, body image, confidence and attack the core beliefs of the victim just using technology at any time of the day and night.
Of course, there are many avenues to deal with cyberbullying but how it is dealt with can be important for parents and schools. It is vital to remember that the social space online that the victim has developed is unique and important to them, be it gaming, SN or video compilation. Encouraging a victim to shut it all down can be the most counterproductive thing to do. Understanding blocking, reporting and recording evidence is useful in supporting the efforts to end the incidents.
If you would like to hear more on strategy to understand bullying online and how to cope with it, please have a look at the online safety presentations available at https://safe-ltd.com/ Safer Internet Day in February 2021 means your child(ren) will likely hear lots of messages during that week why not take the opportunity to start the conversation early.
Alan Earl – SAFE Ltd.
10th February 2021