THE BLOG
17/11/2017 09:15 GMT | Updated 17/11/2017 09:15 GMT

It's Time Tackling Cyberbullying Became A Priority

Getting home from school offers no respite from bullies in 2017. Cyberbullying follows you everywhere - so instead of getting a break from name-calling or intimidation, nasty comments flash up on your phone or appear in your Facebook messages at any time.

Getting home from school offers no respite from bullies in 2017. Cyberbullying follows you everywhere - so instead of getting a break from name-calling or intimidation, nasty comments flash up on your phone or appear in your Facebook messages at any time.

There's also the threat that something you feel embarrassed about will suddenly be shared with others, or appear publicly on your social media profiles. Being bullied in this way can feel like you are constantly on high alert and under siege.

This anti-bullying week we've been thinking about this growing issue. Young people tell us that online bullying is a major concern for them, and that it can have a devastating effect on their wellbeing and self-esteem. The damage can be long lasting - even leading to serious mental health problems such as depression.

Our joint-inquiry on the topic, with Alex Chalk MP and the mental health charity YoungMinds, has so far uncovered some shocking detail about how many young people are experiencing online bullying and just how nasty that bullying can be.

Almost half of young people (aged 11-25) responding to a survey we conducted for the inquiry said they had experienced threatening, intimidating or nasty messages via social media, email or text. Some 30% had experienced persistent messaging from someone even after asking them to stop. One in five had experienced having personal, private or embarrassing information shared publicly.

Another common form of bullying is by exclusion. In school time, this might mean peers talking about you and not inviting you to join in their plans. Now it's all too easy to continue that behaviour on WhatsApp groups or over Snapchat. In our survey, 47% of young people said they had experienced exclusion from conversations, groups, games and activities online.

Despite these bad experiences, young people have also said that being online can bring positive benefits. Online communities can be a place to make new friends and can be empowering refuges from bullies. That means just telling children to put down their smartphones forever is not the answer. The solution needs to come from social media itself.

Social media companies are coming under increasing pressure to clamp down on cyberbullying on their platforms. The government launched its internet safety strategy consultation last month and that included promising ideas, such as developing a social media code of practice - but we need to make sure that this leads to concrete change.

Suggestions put forward by young people at our inquiry include promoting positive interactions through reinforcing community guidelines, making sure swift action is taken to stop those who are bullying, and signposting to support for victims.

This time next year, in 2018, we want to see that positive steps have been taken to tackle this issue. Bullying, in all its forms needs to be stood up to, and we want a society where children and young people never have to fear being harmed by bullying either on or offline.