THE NATIONAL BULLYING HELPLINE - CYBERBULLYING
Christine Pratt - National Bullying Helpline
Across the UK today we are hearing some very disturbing stories about children and adults who are being bullied on line. Parents call helplines in tears, worried about the safety of their children and adults are struggling with cyberbullying too.
We have seen a number of high profile cases involving children, adults and, even MP’s, who have been targeted by on-line hate campaigners. It’s an anti-social behaviour, a form of discrimination, that does not discriminate. It affects adults and children alike.
In the UK a study revealed that at least half the suicides amongst young adults are related to cyberbullying. 10-14 year old girls are a high risk and adults are affected too but are often too proud to seek help.
Over the last 20 years, advancements in technology have created new ways for bullies to harass people they want to bully. This ever-changing world of technology we live in is driving the need for new tougher, clearer, law to protect us from cyberbullying. We are already seeing changes in law linked to Cyberbullying but more must be done. Having said that, their are laws in place that can protect you if you are being bullied online. When should you take action and what can you do to protect yourself.
If you ever come across anything on the internet that makes you feel uncomfortable, no matter where it is, please report it.
If someone has posted false and malicious things about you on the internet or on a social networking site, it may be regarded as harassment. Harassment, on or off line, is a crime under UK laws. This can be very distressing. Anything nasty posted about you can be seen by lots of people, very quickly, because it's so public and because the bullies make sure they tell everyone where to find the abuse. The bullies know this. These bullies are cowards as they hide behind the technology to bully others !
Increasingly common are complaints that the spreading of malicious rumours and vicious gossip is being carried out by a person who was once your best friend. So chose your friends carefully. Be careful what you tell your friends. Keep your own secrets to yourself. Only tell people things if it wouldn't embarrass you if other people found out about it.
For more information about bullying online by a friend or someone you know, the National Bullying Helpline has a guide which will give you all the information you need to tackle this and stop the bullying.
It's against the law in the UK to use the phone system - which includes the internet - to cause alarm or distress. It could even be against the 1997 Harassment Act.
If threats are made against you then it's essential that you alert someone you trust, or call a helpline or contact the Police. If someone is threatening you on the internet, or threatening someone you know, they could be committing a criminal offence. Try to get documentary evidence if you can. By pressing the ‘print screen’ button, you should be able to print of a hard copy of the threatening text or images. Place it in a safe place, both on and off line.
UK and even worldwide, helplines receive increasingly regular, disturbing, calls from adults and young people who say they have met a person over the internet, who calls themselves a friend, but who pressurises them into taking their clothes off and filming themselves. These so called friends then post the images on-line worldwide ! These strangers then blackmail their target (YOU).
In the UK this behaviour is a criminal offence – as indeed blackmail is and should be reported.
Do not allow yourself to be intimidated into taking part in unacceptable behaviour over the internet, by someone on line who you do not know. Simply do not participate in something you feel uncomfortable about. Just refuse. Say NO!
These are not true friends. They are NOT the sort of people you want to be associated with, frankly. They may even threaten you saying that if you do not do exactly what they say, they will contact your family and/or friends and tell lies about you. They are unlikely to do this. This is just to frighten you into doing what they want you to do! Don’t fall for it!
This behaviour is a serious criminal offence called "grooming". Men who have been found guilty of "grooming" have been sent to jail. You wouldn’t get into a car with a stranger, would you? No! So, don’t fall for this trick. If you, or someone you know, is being groomed on-line by a stranger – report it immediately to someone you trust.
Do not hesitate to call an expert or report the matter to the Police. The Police are now able to get information from your computer's hard drive but it would be helpful if you did not delete anything that might be useful evidence of the grooming.
We all know how easy it is to snap a picture on a camera or mobile phone and then post it up on Facebook or on the internet. Yes, isn’t technology simply amazing. It is also a minefield of corruption and danger!
Don't let anyone take pictures of you that might embarrass you. If someone has posted an inappropriate picture of you, ask them to remove or take it down If this is not an option then the forum used to display the image will if you contact them.
If you are the one thats posting images, make sure that you have a person's permission to take a picture of them for posting on-line, before you proceed. Once it has been posted thousands of people can see it on the internet. Don’t offend others. Don't hurt someone you care about by uploading their picture, for others to have a laugh at. That could be considered harassment and harassment is against the law in the UK.
Don't digitally alter pictures of people either because what you might think is funny, may be offensive to other people.
Social media is probably of the most common platform for bullying, they are a great way to have a chat with a friend or family member but if things turn nasty you can in most cases block that individual. See our page on social media from more information.
A parent who truly believes their child is ‘at risk’ of self harm, or harm from another, due to bullying at school or bullying on line - should take immediate action.
Ask your child to draw a picture or keep a diary. This becomes important evidence.
Ask your child to sit down and write the name of the bully or bullies and draw pictures or write a sentence or two about what is happening and how they feel. Do not dictate this letter. Do not correct spelling mistakes. Allow the child the freedom to express himself or herself freely. This document then becomes a very important document in respect of your case. This document will give you, the parent, credibility and it will enable you to effectively help your child.
Take a snapshot of the evidence if the bullying is either on-line or via mobile phone. This is important evidence. Keep it safe.
If the perpetrators go to your child’s school, write to the school and attach a copy of the evidence and state, explicitly, that you hold the school responsible for the safety and welfare of your child. Ask the school to investigate the bullying and report back, in writing, with a proposed action plan to remedy the situation.
If matters are not resolved, escalate your case to the Trustees; to the local authority (formerly LEA, now LA) and/or your local MP. The National Bullying Helpline have written a comprehensive step by step guide about what to do if your child is being bullied. The guide will explain everything you need to do and it include template letters to address this bullying with the school.