Cyber bullying: Clicks and phones worse than sticks and stones?

There’s an old saying that “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,” but anyone who has been on the receiving end of serious name calling will know how hurtful it can really be.

A 2013 study by the University of Pittsburgh seems to back up a long-held theory that yelling and verbal insults can be as damaging as physical abuse. This is especially the case among adolescents, who of course have a new form of bullying to contend with – one that many of us never experienced while growing up.

Over two thirds (69%) of people aged 13 to 22 in the UK say they have experienced cyber bullying, with more than a million of them subject to it on a daily basis. It’s possibly the most persistent and cowardly form of bullying, and worst of all, most parents don’t know how to deal with it. They can advise on playground name calling because they saw it themselves as kids, but they never experienced abuse via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and bullying for them pretty much ended once the school bell went.

The faceless nature of online bullying means that sadly, it’s very easy and anyone can do it even if they have no backbone at all, often setting up fake social media accounts to help them. There are people out there (clearly with very empty lives) who devote an awful lot of time and creativity into trolling and cyber bullying, even finding ways to directly cause physical harm to people.

Just last month, a Maryland man was arrested in connection with a flashing tweet sent to a journalist that caused him to have a seizure. It appears that this was no accident and a frightening amount of planning and commitment went into the attack.

I once worked in a call centre where all kinds of stories went around about some of the ways callers would get one over on staff they took a dislike to. One that stuck with me was a rumour of a caller blowing a whistle down the phone, potentially giving the call handler tinnitus and other hearing problems. This story from Germany shows that the practice is not unheard of.

We should remember, however, that bullying need not have immediate physical consequences to be deeply harmful. Bullying and abuse are listed as some of the main causes of suicide and self-harm by almost all sources, including the NHS.

Since cyber bullies are generally cowards with no thought for anyone except themselves, the only way they are likely to stop is if they are found out, confronted and made answerable to their behaviour. What they may not realise this that the internet is not completely anonymous, and there are ways that a fake account can be traced down.

We’ve put together an eBook that can help you do just that. Usually priced at £79, it’s currently available for just £9.99 if you enter the code EWTRACE at checkout.

Categories: Research

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