How to beat cyber bullying
In a recent survey by the charity Beatbullying, nearly 40 per cent of young people said that they were nervous about going back to school because of bullying. Also, one in three children have revealed that they have been the victims of cyber bullying.
Cyber bullies target their victims mainly via mobile phone text and picture messages, prank mobile calls and social networking sites. The impact can be just as devastating as verbal or physical abuse. In January, Megan Gillan (15) of Macclesfield took a fatal overdose of painkillers after classmates instigated a bullying campaign at school and on the social networking site Bebo, where they posted spiteful messages about her.
Text and picture messages can be used to target children
The seriousness of cyber bullying has now been recognised by law via a landmark case. In August, Keeley Houghton (18) of Malvern became the first person in Britain to receive a custodial sentence for cyber bullying. Houghton had bullied Emily Moore (18) verbally and physically for over four years and had said on her Facebook profile that she intended to kill her. Houghton pleaded guilty to harassment and will serve three months in a young offenders institution.
"Cyber bullying is as serious as offline bullying and young people need to know that they can't get away with it, " says Richard Piggin, a spokesperson for Beatbullying, a leading UK charity that works with schools and colleges to prevent bullying.
The charity has established a network of young mentors in more than 600 schools and 100 colleges across Britain. The mentors have often suffered bullying themselves and can offer much-needed advice and support.
"The most common problem if a child is being bullied is that they're reluctant to speak to parents or a teacher, " says Richard. "This is where our mentors come in. Sometimes, all a child needs is to be given enough confidence to go to a teacher."
Beatbullying's mentor schemes achieve a 40 per cent reduction in bullying at participating schools. Their new CyberMentoring programme takes the model and puts it online.
A lifeline for kids
The scheme was launched in March, with support from Gordon Brown, Ed Balls and celebrities including Joe Calzaghe and Dame Kelly Holmes. It's proving a lifeline to children in many ways.
"When kids are not at school they may still suffer bullying and need help, " says Richard. "The CyberMentor scheme is there for anyone who is being bullied, on or offline. Young people can talk to their CyberMentor and get support using the technology that is sometimes being used to torment them."
All of Beatbullying's mentors are given full training and are supported by a network of trained counsellors. If they think a person is in danger of hurting themselves, being physically harmed or that their life is at risk, the counsellors take over and help.
Anyone who is being bullied can log-on at CyberMentors.org.uk and register to have a live one-to-one chat with a mentor. This is not in the public domain and the advice given is monitored by counsellors.
Brink of suicide
Since the programme launched in March 2009, CyberMentors have helped more than 110, 000 young people. One of the mentors, Georgia Woods (14), was bullied for more than two years until she reached the point of desperation. The abuse would take place at school, in the local community and via her Bebo page. "They called me fat, ugly and left posts on my Bebo page saying that I had nothing to live for and would be better off dead, " says Georgia. "Two of the bullies even created a hate group online and invited classmates to join."
CyberMentor Georgia was bullied herself
Thankfully, Georgia found the courage to tell her mum about the abuse, who then contacted the school. "They were so supportive, " Georgia explains. "I was given counselling, as were some of the bullies who had problems at home, and the abuse gradually stopped."
Georgia became a CyberMentor to offer help to other children and she now spends six hours a week online talking to victims of bullying. Children come to the site with a wide range of problems: "A girl I'm mentoring at the moment is being bullied at school and her parents are arguing a lot at home. She feels like she wants the world to end."
No matter what the problem is, one piece of advice remains the same from Georgia: "If you're being bullied, you've got to tell your parents. Some people think that if they tell their parents it will get worse. I made that mistake and learnt from it, but you have to tell them because you can't go through it alone."
It's worrying that Georgia has found herself busier than ever as the start of term approaches. "More people have contacted me recently because they're scared about what will happen when school starts and they don't know how to deal with it."
How to combat cyber bullying
Well-regulated social networking sites have clear safety advice and terms and conditions that forbid the harassment or abuse of members. Most emphasize the seriousness of any breach of their code of conduct. A spokesperson for Bebo told us, "Bebo educates users to be responsible and to understand that they are not anonymous online as their activity creates a digital record of behaviour.
"Bebo provides online safety tools, such as the ability to block any unwanted contact, report unacceptable behaviour, and they can seek advice on www.bebo.com/safety
"A 'report abuse' link is made available on all profile pages, which allows users to notify Bebo about inappropriate content, and the site to issue warnings and cancel memberships as appropriate."
On MySpace, you can remove friends from your list so that they can't add comments about you. If someone has created a nasty profile or is pretending to be you, contact MySpace customer services to take it further.
If you receive abusive texts or emails, keep them to show to parents, teachers and, if necessary, the police. Your mobile service provider should have a number that you can ring to report abusive messaging.
If you receive a nasty email, don't reply to it and get your parents to report it to your school, if you think it's coming from a fellow pupil, or to the service provider of the email.
Beware of online traps
Girls are more likely to be targets of bullying than boysOne of the most devious ploys of online bullies involves ‘impersonating' another person, logging on as them and posting fake comments to upset other people. Online privacy is essential and it's vital that you never give out your password, not even to a friend.
Some internet bullies will lure a person into an unpleasant exchange whereby they may be provoked into making a comment that can be reported to the moderator. This makes the person being bullied seem to blame. However, moderators are wise to this and will not instantly assume that the person being reported is in the wrong.
Keeping the computer in a room at home where parents can supervise is another way of helping to prevent cyber bullying. "I wouldn't have it any other way, " says Georgia, "Mum looks over my shoulder when I'm online and I know I'm safe if anything goes wrong."
Gail Dixon is the editor of http://www.tom-brown.com - a guide that helps parents choose a school in the UK. We have a wealth of editorial on our site written by high profile writers from newspapers and leading journals.
Article Source: ArticlesBase.com