Today, I spoke to David Peek, from UCB Radio, as we approach the end of anti-bullying week.
A survey for #Antibullyingweek2020 suggests online bullying is up 25% in a year – but with more of us spending more time online, how real is this rise – and can we do anything to combat the issue? We spoke with @drbexl – listen ?: https://t.co/BBaplVIVAD / @UCBMedia
— UCB News (@UCBNewsTeam) November 20, 2020
Some of the prep that I’d thought about in preparation (the CofE Digital Charter was mentioned in the initial email)
- Since 2013, Ditch the Label have undertaken an annual bullying survey – the 2020 report was also released this week.
- The Church of England Digital Charter, focused on truth, kindness, welcome, inspiration, togetherness, safeguarding… an individual and a corporate responsibility.
- For years I have recommended the Methodist social media guidelines – which is very much about online being a part of life, and being consistent online/offline
- It’s not necessarily ‘don’t do things online that you wouldn’t do offline’, as they are different spaces, but be a consistent version of yourself (many deep philosophical questions there!)…
- In some ways it’s harder to ‘hide’ because the web networks all those 0s and 1s – but if prepared to work hard – can in the dark web – but we’re really talking about the publicly accessible web
- A couple of years ago a piece published in Surveillance and Society journal – https://ojs.library.queensu.ca/index.php/surveillance-and-society/article/view/7650/8430 – in which an awareness that we are always viewed online – may change our behaviour – both positively and negatively (we may feel that we have to appear overly positive, or holy – or even a ‘photoshopped self’; or it may hold us accountable in thinking before we press ‘send’) – in many ways not unique to digital – we have always had different presentations for different spaces.. but particularly if we’re thinking about being a Christian online – what Bible verses may inform our behaviour online – the fruits of the spirit – re being patient, joyful, etc.. our lives converge so how do we live consistently in different online spaces…
- Trying to complete second edition of my book (not got to the bullying section yet) – how much is it buying the media narrative – how much do students see that others are being bullied and define that as happening to themselves … how much easier Is it to focus on indiv behaviours, rather than societal change?
- Disinhibition – the screen between – empowers both negative and positive behaviours
- It is really concerning that so many children (of the 13k surveyed) – School pressures, exams, body image, feelings of loneliness and bereavement were referenced as the leading contributors to poor mental health – struggling – and it’s so easy to blame ‘online’ as some kind of amorphous space … but we post the content (the social media companies are attempting to manage this – think about the question ‘sure you want to post this’, and how Twitter is marking up Trump’s tweets *my students looked at Trump and said why do we need to work hard?) – and with some help in curating feeds can be much more positive – e.g. I got rid of any diet/weight loss/before&after comparison accounts on insta, and started following Body Posi accounts – Tik Tok in particular has a fast responding algorithm on this (which can be good or bad)… One thing that stands out from the report though is that one of the main ways that the charity offers support (esp this year) is through online support groups!
- Remember also the Oxford study that said once take other factors out of equation – being on social media groups is less harmful than eating potatoes … but it’s easy to get research funding to look at bullying, etc. so I struggle with this. Jacqueline Vickery – worrying about the wrong things – says often the ‘dangers’ of digital focus on the white privileged experience – studies in the US – talked particularly to poor immigrant families and demonstrated how poor the f2f experience of education was for them, but how digital gave them learning, a chance to connect without ‘label’ concerns, etc. although they still had to fit this in within childcare for younger siblings, etc.
- Andy Phippen book – children are used to being asked about their negative experiences online, but rarely are asked about their positive opportunities – he gave them a chance, and so many engaged!
- The Social Dilemma – a film with many problems – tries to manage family use of tech through decrees rather than conversation/education.
Some key lines from Annual Bullying Survey:
- Bullying has increased by 25% in the past 12 months. How is this defined – self-defined? No cases are good, but how do we help young people feel empowered – for themselves/those they see? Social exclusion, verbal bullying, rumours, intimidation, cyberbullying, threatened, physical, manipulation, in online games
- 1 in 4 have been bullied in the last year.
- 1 in 4 have been physically attacked.
- 1 in 3 young people have been bullied online
Note that stats are not THAT different for online/offline – doesn’t make it OK – but if focusing attention on social media being ‘bad’ are not educating people how to use it well … we need to focus on our values and how they impact us/others…Have to remember that social media is now an embedded everyday tool so more IS going to happen on there – doesn’t make it OK, but have to deal with the bullying not the platform (sometimes think it’s like asking post office to open every letter, tho digital does have sophisticated tools)
Typically academic research has found that those who are likely to be bullied offline, are unfortunately also more likely to be bullied online…
- 1 in 3 of those bullied in the last year have had suicidal thoughts as a result.
- 1 in 3 young people say it’s OK to share a video of someone being attacked.
- 1 in 10 agree the behaviour of politicians affects how people treat each other at school.
- Half of all young people say bullying has had a huge effect on their mental health.
Half of all young people say bullying has huge effect on their mental health and ambitions for the future.
- 1 in 2 young people say bullying has affected their mental health, confidence and positive outlook.
- 1 in 2 had social anxiety as a result of bullying.
- 3 in 5 say bullying has affected their social life and relationships
- 1 in 3 said it has a huge effect on their self esteem
- 1 in 4 said it has affected their studies and home life.
Physical appearance is the main reason people are bullied: more than race, sexuality or disability.
1 in 2 young people have been bullied due to their physical appearance. The figure for appearance-based bullying is way higher than figures relating to race, sexuality or disability (around 1 in 10). Bodies seem to one of the last frontiers that it’s OK to focus on negatively – though see e.g. Dr Joshua Woolrich, Jameela Jamil, etc speaking to general public, and then e.g. Sophie Hagen, etc. (that’s partic on weight, but spots, height, ears, whatever is a bit different will be targeted)… PSHE = overloaded, so how do we get more of this into people’s lives – parents, churches, relations, and still schools.. celebs on Tik Tok, etc. (some great ‘disability accounts’ explaining what life is like)
Over 1 in 3 young people have developed depression as a result of bullying in the past year
1 in 3 had suicidal thoughts.
1 in 2 young people say they have changed or hidden part of who they are to avoid getting abuse from others. This feels a bit like a time immemorial problem – teenagers reflecting what they see going on in the world around them. Remember ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’ – so seeing e.g. Countryfile has some of the most diverse presenters – and not just talking about disability; digital does mean is easier to find your ‘tribe’ as not restricted by geography – again this can be good/bad – can encourage positive/negative behaviours. One of things say in the book is that if make yourself into ‘the enforcer’ – children will look elsewhere for advice/support than you (as seemed to be the tactic on The Social Dilemma on Netflix).
Recent paper – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200902101822.htm – parents = perceived as loving = children less likely to be bullies
1 in 4 had intentionally self-harmed.
More than 1 in 10 attempted suicide.
More than 1 in 10 developed an eating disorder
Notes from book
- Lots of high profile cases, and since 2013 – huge surge in anti-bullying books/research
- Typically = worst case scenarios, tragic in each case, but much more complex than the headlines (which often focus on the means of communication)
- Age-old problem translated to the digital arena … which is where of much modern communication takes place.
- Online bullying – more pervasive than offline bullying, less likely to stop at the front door, leaves little space to escape to, others can get involved quickly, and the message can resurface and start another episode when it is all thought to be forgotten.
- Statistics on bullying can range from 5%-75% depending on who is writing the statistics, and how it is defined (in 2010 6% online/19% offline – less part of everyday).
- ‘Vodafone quoted research from the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), which indicates that at least two-thirds of teenagers have positive experiences online, although most had witnessed mean behaviour to others, and less than a fifth reported being a target.’
- Bullying is particularly concerning to parents/carers – causes emotional harm and knock on for rest of life …
- Bullying = aggressive/repeated actions over time. Cyberbullying = enabled by technology.
- Age 13-16 = noticeable peak in bullying – often age/power, though some find power online to bully those who are physically bigger.
- Need to understand where individual responsibility lies, and where we need to push for government policies, school policies, software companies, and our wider communities. ‘The higher the statistics (we hear), the more likely we are to limit children’s online access and buy into a [negative] surveillance culture.’
- Children sometimes lose interest when we talk about ‘bullying’ because they think it’s ‘drama’, not so much about a power differential. The media/govt having defined cyberbullying as a ‘thing’ seems to be something that can be focused on – and managed – but can stop us looking in the right direction for solutions.
- Cyberbullying can include threatening/hateful messages, negative pics/video clips, silent/abusive calls, stealing phone/used to harass others, nasty comments on social media, reputation-damage blogging (inc sharing personal data), ‘who’s hot’ etc polls, forcing social isolation for non-compliance.
- Typically same risk factors offline apply online – social media may be catalyst for e.g. death by suicide, but not the sole cause (and may unhelpfully encourage copycat behaviour from others who feel they don’t get enough attention).
- Parents/carers need to be aware of the characteristics of their own children and be looking out for changed behaviour that causes concern, and preferably encourage a culture in the family where conversation means things will be noted early – keep conversation open (with you or their peers)
- Girls bullying tend to focus on appearance/sensuality – threatened with stalking/submission, whilst boys around sexual orientation, lack of ability – trulyaggressivee threats. Boys tend to exhibit anger, girls fear/helplessness. Boys often retaliated, which may lead to another round of bullying.
- ‘Nancy Willard, who undertakes many cyberbullying workshops in schools, emphasises that it’s important to understand that not “everybody does it”, nor is this just a “stage of life” that children have to survive. The media emphasis that there is a cyber-bullying epidemic tends to encourage children to think that they can send hurtful messages because ‘everyone else is doing it’.’
- Important to get involved early – and not focus on fear-mongering or ‘just ignore it’ as = social isolation. Fears about losing access to phone means may not tell parents.
- Important to encourage children to understand they are valued and supported, and that they have support systems in place (and don’t be afraid to ask your own friends for support and advice).
- Important to encourage kids not to be a bystander and watch/allow things to happen
Some useful Links
- uKnow Kids: bullying
- ThinkUKNow: advice and report abuse to CEOP
- National Bullying Helpline
- Young Minds
- Anti-Bullying Alliance
- NSPCC: bullying
- Bullies Out
- Vodafone – digital parenting – viral bullying
- StandUp Foundation
- RespectMe (Scotland)
Originally in the book:
- http://www.papyrus-uk.org (preventing young suicide)
- http://www.thetrevorproject.org (US based suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth)
- http://www.childline.org.uk/ (confidential helpline for those under 19)
- http://www.beatbullying.org (US support line/advice about cyberbullying, and opportunities to report your own situation, or someone else’s)
- http://twloha.com/vision (US based site for those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts)
- http://www.athinline.org (MTV site for those suffering digital abuse)
- http://www.itgetsbetter.org (for those suffering LGBT abuse)
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.