Cyber bullying is where one or more people use technology, such as the internet or mobile and smart phones, to intentionally cause hurt or harm to another or others. It is a particularly invasive form of bullying as it can follow a young person anywhere. Even in the middle of the night, in the sanctuary of their own bedroom, a young person can receive an insulting text message or hurtful social media post.
The World in Your Pocket
With more and more of us using smart phones to connect to the internet, the world has never been more accessible. From a small device that we carry around in our pockets, we can connect and share with people all over the world.
On the whole, these advances in technology have had an extremely positive impact on the way we live our lives. We can stay in contact with friends from any part of the globe, immediately sharing photographs and videos with them and keeping up to date on a daily basis.
We have a wealth of information at our fingertips and can quickly research any given topic at the click of a button. Within seconds we can find out what time the latest Hollywood blockbuster is playing at our local cinema, check how our favourite football team are doing in the league table or catch up on breaking local, national and international news.
Despite the many ways in which the internet can have a very positive impact on our lives, we must be mindful of the potential dangers our children may face. The most recent Kids’ Life and Times (KLT) survey undertaken by ARK found that 13% of pupils in P7 have been ‘bullied by someone sending nasty texts or putting a bad thing about them on the internet.’
To help us understand the nature of online bullying it sometimes helps to think of the internet as a global playground. In the playground, children and young people often chat with their friends, play games together and just ‘hang out’. The same activities are available in an online world, with instant messaging systems, online gaming, file sharing and a plethora of other tools allowing us to connect and share.
Unacceptable behaviour, like that in the playground, can also be displayed in the online world. Name-calling, exclusion, ridiculing and teasing can all take place both online and off. These behaviours are the same, but the way in which they are being communicated is different.
What can we do?
Like all forms of bullying, it is important that children and young people know that it is essential for them to tell an adult if they experience cyber bullying. Unless we know about it, there is nothing that we can do to help.
These new technologies provide us with the world at our fingertips and offer us excellent opportunities to connect, share and learn. However, we must educate our children on their responsibilities when using the internet or mobile phones, to help us all stay safe and enjoy the cyber playground.