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From Isolation to Self-Harm and Suicide: How Cyberbullying Affects Children

child leaning on a wall
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

 The bullying was painful and hurtful to me, and I wanted other people to know how it affected me. I made new friends who had also experienced cyberbullying, and together we decided that we wanted online bullies to realise that they could seriously hurt someone…..”

 – An excerpt from Jessica Davies’ story

Unlike school corridors and classrooms, the virtual world remains largely unsupervised, providing an open space for bullies to target children and victimise them. Unfortunately, because it happens online, cyberbullying frequently goes completely unnoticed by adults.

What is important for teachers to consider is that there is a lot of evidence that points to the fact cyberbullying has far reaching consequences for individuals, sometimes proving to be fatal. Here is a video of a brave 14-year-old girl who talks about her experience and how it almost led to her taking her own life.

As children go through the various stages of adolescence, they are already beginning to deal with emotional and psychological changes that make them vulnerable; add to that a bully, whose sole objective is to torment and terrify, and it will undoubtedly lead to an unhealthy and unhappy child.

Cyberbullying affects children in a number of ways and can have long lasting consequences, if not identified and addressed early on:

  1. Damaged self-esteem

Victims of cyberbullying often feel like punch bags, as bullies constantly target them across various internet platforms. Bullying robs children of their sense of self-worth and security, leaving them feeling exposed and weak. Emotionally, children may withdraw from activities they once enjoyed or perform poorly at school as they lose confidence in their abilities.

Constant name-calling and teasing can seriously hurt a child’s self-esteem causing them to develop deeper and more serious emotional problems as they go through adolescence.

  1. Anxiety and Depression

Naturally, once a child’s self-esteem is eroded, they begin to spiral down a path of negativity and self-doubt, eventually experiencing serious psychological issues. The constant stress of being targeted online can make a child feel isolated, humiliated and extremely nervous in social situations. Collectively, these emotions can lead to serious mental damage, causing full blown depressive episodes in some cases.

According to Dr Bijlani, who works at the Priory Hospital, Roehampton, in south-west London, “Children often fear reporting abuse and only later in life do these issues surface in the form of depression, stress, anxiety and other serious psychological conditions.”

  1. Aggression

In some instances, children might lash out and behave aggressively as a means to cope with the constant fear and pressure of being bullied. Unfortunately, in such cases the child is often subjected to further criticism from parents and teachers who are unaware of what is really going on.

  1. Self-harm and suicidal thoughts

Self-harm is more common than we realise and very often results from being constantly victimised and targeted by a bully. An article in The Huffington Post claims “almost half of school staff believe students under their tutelage have self-harmed and almost one in five were aware of youngsters attempting suicide, according to a new survey.” Some staff said cyberbullying and the desire to feel popular were among the most common causes of stress among their pupils.

A particularly alarming survey by ChildLine, Selfharm.co.uk, YouthNet and YoungMinds, revealed that 25% of children cited bullying as a cause for self-harm and almost 40% said that they had never talked about it to anyone in the ‘real world’.  Furthermore, ChildLine registered an 87% rise in calls about cyberbullying last year, a 41% increase in calls about self-harm, with the highest increase among 12- to15 year olds.

The Department of Health has recently commissioned a study into the possible links between suicide and the internet, the results of which will be made available in two years. A spokeswoman from the department stated that mental health was a priority for the Government and indicated the introduction of internet safety into the national curriculum.

If you are worried that your students are being bullied online, here are some signs to look out for: (keep in mind that these symptoms could be the result of other issues as well)

  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Reluctance to let parents or other adults anywhere near their laptops etc.
  • Finding reasons to stay away from school and other activities
  • Marks on the skin that could indicate self-harm
  • A marked change in personality i.e. anger, depression, crying, appearing withdrawn

Securus helps schools implement e-Safety measures that protect children from potential harm. Share your thoughts with us on this issue in the comments section, or connect with us on LinkedIn or Twitter to know more about how we can help.

 

Racist Abuse Incidents Surge in UK Schools After Brexit Vote

brexit
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

The aftermath of Brexit has brought back memories of racism from the ’80s, as reports of Race-hate incidents kept popping up on Facebook and Twitter feeds within hours of the Brexit result being announced.

“Daughter tells me someone wrote “[Child’s name] go back to Romania” on the wall in the girl’s toilets at School today,” tweeted James Titcombe, a Patient Safety Specialist with Datix, UK.

Whilst Polish immigrants were being called “vermin” and people shouted chants like “make Britain white again”, in the Quartz London office, a woman in a hijab was accosted as she walked into a mosque and a Polish mother was told to get off a bus and start packing her bags.

A recent article published in Schools Week quoted the National Police Chiefs’ Council that reports of hate crime had risen by 57 percent compared with the same period last year – 85 incidents were reported compared with 54 during the earlier period. More people reported numerous instances of school children being subjected to racist abuse, sometimes from other pupils; much of this has been posted on social media.

How can schools protect themselves from racist attacks?

In an interview with BBC, Andy Somers, head of Hartsdown Academy, referred to “ugly things” that had been said to pupils at his school after the referendum. Somers also said that many people seemed to think that, because of the vote… that it’s OK to be racist.

“The country will not stand for hate crime,” David Cameron told MPs in the Commons.

He further added, “in the past few days we have seen despicable graffiti daubed on a Polish community centre, we’ve seen verbal abuse hurled against individuals because they are members of ethnic minorities. Let’s remember these people have come here and made a wonderful contribution to our country.” Cameron said.

In order to tackle hate crime, David Cameron announced a new action plan in the Commons. He has advised ‘vulnerable’ institutions to seek extra security funding from the Home Office.

How has the EU referendum dominated the digital world and why is it important for schools?

The date June 23rd, 2016 will be etched in the minds of British people, with either a smile or a shiver. Not only did this political battle take over the television studios, broadcasting endless debates – the EU referendum also dominated the digital world.

But how?

Over roughly the same period, about 16,000 tweets appeared using a term or hashtag associated with xenophobia. Whilst 10,000 tweets were sent out in support for migrants, some 5000 tweets were xenophobic.

Agreed, a degree of conflict is part of the point of politics, but hasn’t the EU referendum triggered an entirely different political battle?

All the tweets that are xenophobic in nature are readily available online for anyone with an internet connection to read – if adults are unable to cope with it, imagine a teenager’s reaction?

In addition to extra security funding from the government, here’s another e-Safety option you might be interested in – Securus is the leading e-Safety solutions provider for schools and colleges, monitoring all computer-based activities. We ensure that young people are safeguarded against the various range of threats they face in this digital age.

Identifying Different Types of Cyberbullying

cyberbullying
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

“The Internet has been a boon and a curse for teenagers” J.K Rowling

There is no denying the insurmountable benefits the Internet has provided to us over the last few decades. But, unfortunately, in the hands of the wrong people, it can do a lot more damage than good. J.K Rowling’s quote aptly sums up the experience for children and teens. Whilst they are using the Internet more than ever, either to do research for school or to socialise with friends and family, they often find themselves targets of online bullying. Much like in the real world, bullies in the digital space prey on others in an effort to manipulate and intimidate – control and power seem to be the primary driving forces.

Traditionally, bullying has been viewed as an aggressive attack in the form of verbal or physical abuse. However, today, bullying can be described in many other ways. The internet has made it really easy to violate other people’s privacy and cause them unnecessary harm. The term cyberbullying is most often defined as the use of the Internet and technology to harass, threaten, embarrass or target another person.

Here are the different types of Cyberbullying every educator should know about:

Masquerading

The bully pretends to be someone they aren’t in an attempt to hide their identity and prey on vulnerable children – they may do so by creating fake email addresses or instant messaging names. If they have access to someone else’s account information or mobile phone, they may use that to target the person. The danger in this type of bullying lies in the fact that a child may share private or sensitive information assuming the person they are talking to is someone known to them. This information can easily be misused by the bully, whose primary objective is to cause harm and manipulate others.

“Happy-Slapping”

In this type of bullying the victim is slapped, punched, kicked or beaten, while someone films the incident using a camera phone or some other recording device. The bully goes a step further and posts the video online on platforms such as YouTube to share it with a larger audience. As an alternative to YouTube the video may also be circulated via email or text messages, with the sole purpose of humiliating and embarrassing the victim.

This unpleasant trend has become widely popular, with hundreds of videos being circulated across the internet. Very often, individuals are seriously harmed in the videos, not to mention the mental and emotional trauma of being physically abused and humiliated while their attackers laugh and make jokes.

 Website, Blogs and Social Media

In some cases, bullies create websites or blogs dedicated to humiliating, insulting and embarrassing the victim. This could involve publishing private information and images on the website, thus putting the victim in danger. Sharing and posting information that is malicious, untrue and hateful via social media networks is another common method used by bullies to target victims. Also, bullies sometimes post rude, insulting comments on someone’s Facebook or Twitter Page and use information that was shared in confidence to manipulate and hurt their victims.

The cruel and sad truth about this form of online bullying is that it uses social networking sites, which were created for the purpose of connecting people and building social communities, to hurt and humiliate others.

For example, the popular platform, SnapChat is being used by bullies in multiple ways to attack their victims. Bullies upload embarrassing pictures or videos of victims, comparing them with animals or using other derogatory comparisons to cause humiliation.

In one harrowing incident a few years ago, a 14-year-old schoolgirl spent 48 hours in hospital after taking an overdose, following excessive bullying on Facebook, Twitter and SnapChat.

Fraping

Just when we thought things couldn’t get worse, we discovered ‘Fraping’ – impersonating someone by logging into their social networking accounts and posting inappropriate content using their name. While a lot of young people think of it as a harmless way to have fun, fraping can have serious consequences and cause unnecessary harm.

Harassment

While the above mentioned forms of cyberbullying constitute harassment in one form or another, online harassment is also a standalone form of cyberbullying. In this case, the bully persistently targets the victim with hateful messages and emails, very often threatening to do harm. The cyberbully consciously tries to instill fear and cause pain, seriously damaging a child’s self-esteem and emotional health.

Cyberbullying is extremely damaging to the emotional and psychological well-being of an individual. As bullying moves out school corridors and playgrounds into the digital world, protecting children and adolescents has become an increasingly challenging task.

Securus helps schools implement efficient e-Safety measures to promote the well-being of children and create a school environment that is free from potential threats.

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