Online Bullying

Anti-Bullying Week – 15-19 November 2021

The theme of this year’s Anti-Bullying Week is “One Kind Word”.  Kindness, be it in thoughts, words or actions, is an incredibly important quality to foster in a world where we seem to be surrounded by reports of intolerance, division and lack of respect, both on and offline.

The past year has seen reports of online racial abuse of England footballers, abuse and threats against our politicians and most recently reports of children abusing teachers using fake TikTok accounts.

Unkind behaviour tends to hit the headlines more than kindness – and a culture of unkindness, in the form of bullying, trolling or discrimination, can influence children’s views of what is normal or acceptable.  Online gaming chat, for example, can introduce children to rude and abusive language.  Research by the anti-bullying charity, Ditch the Label, found that although the vast majority of children disagreed that “It’s ok to film someone being physically attacked” a quarter thought it was completely acceptable to share a video of someone being attacked. 

It is so easy to share content with just the click of a button and with the growth in children’s ownership of internet connected devices, this has become a normal part of their lives.  But in the context of bullying, onward sharing of content has the effect of both contributing to the victim’s harm and making those who share, to some extent responsible for that harm.  

Preventing online bullying is not easy, but one area where education can make a real difference is in teaching children never to “like” or forward unkind or inappropriate images or messages that have been sent to them and encouraging them to tell a trusted adult if they are aware that someone they know is being bullied online. 

Online bullying increased significantly during recent lockdowns.  It can be particularly devastating due to the fact that it can be relentless, pursuing a child wherever they are and at all times of day or night.  It can be very public with an online audience of people the victim knows and those they don’t.  It can involve embarrassing or humiliating images which may be difficult to remove once they have been widely shared and it can be difficult for adults to be aware that it is happening. 

All bullying can have a serious long-term impact with bullying during the teenage years increasing the risk of an adult mental health problem by more than 50%.  It is important to teach children about the availability of blocking, restricting and reporting functions on the apps and platforms they use, and to encourage them to seek help either at school, home or using confidential advice services such as Childline. 

This year’s theme of One Kind Word provides the opportunity to discuss with children the power of language to cause either harm or happiness and how they have the ability to make a difference by making positive choices and showing empathy and support for others. 

At Gooseberry Planet, we whole-heartedly support the promotion of “One Kind Word” and we encourage children, parents, carers and teachers to embrace positivity and kindness in Anti-Bullying week, this week and beyond.  

Our updated video, with more details about online bullying, is now available on the Guru platform.

Sue Arbuthnot

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