Fresh of his media tour promoting Parliament Street’s mental health campaign, and having appeared on Good Morning Britain, Attitude Magazine and Sky News, Danny Bowman speaks out about the scourge of cyber bullying.
In our society today everyone seems to be online; using social media as a way of creating a chronological timeline of their every action and every life event. Many people believe that this is an extremely positive phenomenon that allows them certain freedoms. This includes a seemingly untouchable level of free speech that has never been possible before. However it also allows a certain few to inflict emotional and psychological abuse on others. This has become known as cyber bullying.
There are 8 different types of cyber bullying:
- Online fighting usually through social media and emails that include angry or abusive language.
- Sending horrible and abusive messages that aim to humiliate or make fun of someone.
- Purposely excluding people from online groups e.g Facebook messaging.
- Distributing secrets about someone else online e.g. a private information or pictures.
- Tricking someone online in to giving personal information about themselves and then distributing that information to others.
- Impersonating someone else when posting cruel or untrue messages online.
- Consistently sending cruel or malicious messages to someone online.
- Harassing someone continually online this can include making threats of physical harm.
Cyber-bullying is a rising issue that is not being addressed and in some cases overlooked. According to a number of organisations including The National Crime Prevention Centre more than half of adolescents and teens have admitted to experiencing bullying online and shockingly around the same amount of teens said they had engaged in cyber bullying. These unnerving findings show that cyber bullying is getting worse.
The effect on a person post cyber-bullying can be severe ,from the occurrence of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety disorders and body image issues.
So what is the answer to this overlooked issue? well I hate to sound too much like Tony Blair with this slightly lyrical slogan but I believe the route towards change is categorised in these three words.
Information,education and regulation
Distribute a vast amount of information to social media and users on the appropriate use of social media platforms and making people aware of the legal consequences to inappropriate use of these networks.
Making people aware of the risks online, particularly on social media for example the risks attached to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Focusing on younger users, there needs to be a new approach to teaching young people about the major risks attached to these platforms including the legal consequences for inappropriate use e.g cyber-bullying.
Help young people understand the emotional impact that cyber bulling can have on an individual and how it can effect their life.
There needs to be more regulation in place to safeguard social media users from intimidation, cyber-bullying and body shaming. Social media sites need to take part responsibility to police and protect potentially vulnerable people online and work much more closely with the police to make their outlets more safe. Finally regarding regulation, social media companies need to comprehensively look at their response speed to reports of bullying on their sites and so that they can act much quicker to issues arising online. By creating support lines or at least advertising outside support lines for issues such as cyber-bullying, mental health and abuse. It would encourage a person experiencing on line bullying to look for help.
This could inevitably reduce the amount of tragic incidents happening because of trauma caused online.
Society will continue to use social media and recognise the many advantages that it offers. With the introduction of new safeguards and increased education to protect individuals against cyber bullying; a safer more positive experience can be achieved for everyone.