Cyber bullying and how to stop it
SOCIAL MEDIA CAN LEAD TO THE TYPE OF BULLYING FROM WHICH THERE IS NO ESCAPE, IMPACTING ON THE MENTAL HEALTH OF VICTIMS AT ALL HOURS OF THE DAY. FIONA MAGENNIS REPORTS ON HOW TO COMBAT A SCOURGE OF MODERN SOCIETY
ATALK for parents on cyber bullying and the importance of monitoring your child’s internet usage took place in The Boomerang Cafe recently. Presented by Grainne Fagan, the talk looked at everything from bullying and the dangers of online peer pressure to grooming and the importance of having the right settings in place on everything from Snapchat to Xbox Live.
She spoke about how cyber bullying can have a huge effect on young people and teenager’s mental health as unlike schoolyard bullying their is no escape from the online attacks.
‘Cyber bullying is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year because they can get to you at any time,’ she said. ‘ There is no safe space and it is hard to escape.’
Grainne explained how some children might think they are just having fun and not realise they are bullying. ‘ They think they’re just slagging,’ she said.
‘Some young people think it fees as though they are invisible and no one will know they are doing it. Maybe they want to get revenge for something another child did to them at school that day.’
She said some of the most common forms of social media used for bullying was instant messaging, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.
‘Often times, it is used to send hateful or threatening messages or to spread rumours about the victim,’ she explained.
Grainne said another issue is former friends using passwords to impersonate the victim and say mean things to their friends, pretending they are the victim in order to isolate them.
She outlined some of the most frequently used tools for bullying, including text wars when young people gang up on one individual and bombard them with text messages and pictures and internet polling with young people asked to vote online for who they think is the ugliest, fatest etc girl or boy in school.
Grainne also discussed one of the most popular social media outlets for children and teens, Snapchat, and how the introduction of a new feature can reveal a dangerous amount of information.
‘If your child puts their location into the map then everyone knows where they area. You need to click on friends and fmaily only and put it in ghost mode so that the information isn’t available publicly. The map means people can trakc where they are at any given time so it could be potentially very dangerous,’ she said.
Grainne spoke about interactive games explaining that many young people use these on gaming devices such as Xbox LIve and the Playstation.
‘It’s quite common for young people on these platforms to verbally abuse other young people using threats and rude language which playing these games. In addition, playing these games in an open group allows strangers to listen in on conversations, get information and even track you.
‘You could have an adult, miles away, contacting your child on Xbox Live and they’re pretending they are 13 and luring the in saying: ‘Do you want to play games with me, this is brilliant, why don’t you do this, why don’t you do that.’
She said the set up was ideal for paeodphiles because it is an easy way to gain access to children by posing anonymously as another child or teenager.
‘ They get talking to kids and they might say do you want to meet to talk about games. Don’t tell your Mam and Dad. This is how it happens. It’s so dangerous.
‘Even if you’re just part of an open group online, strangers could be listening in. If you say I live in this estate and you think you’re only innocently talking to one of your friends, they are listening in and might have a lot of information about where you go to school, where you live. Lots of personal details.’
Mental health is another issue surrounding online gaming, said Grainne, as more and more teenagers spend hours playing video games.
‘Compulsive video gaming is a modern day psychological disorder,’ she said. ‘Sleep deprivation and agrophobia are big side effect of too much time playing computer games.’
She outlined some of the dangerous YouTube challenges which have left teenagers scarred and maimed as a result, such as the fire challenge, the cinnamon challenge and the Kylie Jenner challenge.
She also gave a number of important tips and advice for anyone whose child may be the victim of cyber bullying, including sending the bully a non-emotional, assertive message telling him or her to stop, ignoring and blocking all communication with the cyber bully through social media, email and IM contact.
Grainne also advised paretns to print and save the threatening messages and to ensure your child avoids gooing to the site or group where they have been attacked.
She advised parents to come up with a plan with their child, to talk to the cyber bully’s parents and in serious situations to contact the gardaí.