Has Technology Made Bullying Worse?

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), March 30, 2006 | Go to article overview

Has Technology Made Bullying Worse?


This week experts are gathering in Cardiff for the annual conference of the British Psychological Society. One of the key subjects on the discussion agenda is bullying. Bullying at home, in the playground or in the workplace, it's a problem as old as the human race but in recent years a new form has emerged: cyber bullying.

While modern technology has given its users new freedoms and independence, it has also provided bullies with an anonymous tool.

Plagued by text messages, emails and the internet, victims now have no escape from their tormentors.

We asked two people - has technology made bullying worse?

LAST year ChildLine counselled over 31,000 children and young people about bullying. It was the single biggest issue that children called ChildLine about and the children we hear from reflect the changing 'trends' in bullying.

When children call ChildLine today we don't just hear how they are being called names or being picked on - the traditional weapons of the bully - children now tell us how they are victims of new-technology bullying: text-message bullying, 'happy slapping' and chat-room bullying.

They tell us how they have had their pictures circulated on the internet with cruel and hurtful comments accompanying them. They speak of the vulnerability they feel when they get death threats on their mobile phones from unknown numbers.

They have no way of knowing who is making these threats - is it someone just 'having a laugh' or are they deadly serious? They share with us the fear they experience when they get silent calls over and over again.

The rise in bullying via new technology means there is no escape for the victim - 24hour internet access and the increase in mobile phones usage means that bullying which once would have ended at the school gates can continue into the home.

By targeting children in their homes, text- message bullying can leave children without a safe place to go, feeling isolated and without an escape route from the misery of being relentlessly bullied.

Bullies recognise the power this gives them over their victim and therefore invasive methods of bullying such as through text-messaging are becoming increasingly common. Being constantly harassed this way can have long-term detrimental effects on a child's self esteem, mental health and how they perform at school.

Although many schools are aware of the dangers of text-message bullying and have taken steps to tackle it by banning the use of mobile phones, this doesn't help a child who is being targeted after home-time.

It is crucial that all schools and parents recognise that bullying can occur in many different guises and that they take the problem seriously. Young people need to know that they have the protection of the law against malicious communications and harassment. …

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