Media & Press Media - Audio

[MEDIA] Discussing Cyber-Bullying with David Peek on @UCBMedia / @UCBNewsTeam

Today, I spoke to David Peek, from UCB Radio, as we approach the end of anti-bullying week.

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 – – 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 – – 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

Originally in the book:

Photo by Dee @ Copper and Wild on Unsplash


#EmptyShelf 2016 #25: Girl Up by Laura Bates (@EverydaySexism) (Simon & Schuster, 2016)

laura-bates-girl-upWell, would you believe it? I’ve read a book that’s been out for less than a month, and less than a week after I bought it! The blurb says:

They told you to wear longer skirts, avoid going out late at night and move in groups – never accept drinks from a stranger, and wear shoes you can run in more easily than heels.

They told you to wear just enough make-up to look presentable but not enough to be a slut; to dress to flatter your apple, pear, hourglass figure, but not to be too tarty.

They warned you that if you try to be strong, or take control, you’ll be shrill, bossy, a ballbreaker. Of course it’s fine for the boys, but you should know your place.

They told you ‘that’s not for girls’ – ‘take it as a compliment’ – ‘don’t rock the boat’ – ‘that’ll go straight to your hips’.

They told you ‘beauty is on the inside’, but you knew they didn’t really mean it.

Well screw that. I’m here to tell you something else.

Hilarious, jaunty and bold, GIRL UP exposes the truth about the pressures surrounding body image, the false representations in media, the complexities of a sex and relationships, the trials of social media and all the other lies they told us.

To be honest, I hadn’t twigged that the book was designed for teenagers, but that makes it pretty easy to read, pretty honest, and having look at so much for Raising Children in a Digital Age, there’s some useful and interesting content in there, including this, related to bullying:

2016-05-10 22.36.42

Clearly much of the material comes from a strongly feminist agenda, which I’m getting pretty familiar with, but this nearly made me choke on my reading:

In fact, men are so much more confident about applying when they don’t fit the full criteria that when one university advertised a women-only position, THIRTY men applied for the job.

Another bit that deals with structural inequalities was particularly insightful – and there’s no dumbing down (but plenty of humour/visuals) in this book:



The book deals with public role models, including the limited representations in film, body image, a lot about sex and knowing your own body, the problems of sex that is being represented in the porn industry (why don’t we understand that the ‘fiction’ we see in e.g. Star Wars is being enacted in porn films – lighting, script, etc.), the ‘pressures’ of social media, and on pp. 302-303 asks ‘Can I be a feminist and also be [insert religion here]?’ – with an unqualified yes as an answer.

I’ll leave you with a quote from p.251

It’s clever, because we think of the media as reflecting the world around us, so it’s very powerful in convincing us that this is ‘the way things are’ and the way we are expected to behave and look, when in reality the media reflects the childish and narrow fantasies of a very small group of very powerful men.

Has that whetted your appetite? Buy the book here.


#LTHEChat: Managing Negative Use of Social Media and Cyberbullying

#lthechatThis Wednesday, at 8pm (GMT), join the #LTHEChat conversation on Twitter as we discuss the topic of “managing negative use of social media and cyberbullying”.. a topic that pretty much everyone I meet has an opinion on. Read the introduction to the topic (and after the event, the collected storify) on #LTHEChat.

This was the most difficult chapter to write for Raising Children in a Digital Age, as there are no easy answers to what is perceived to be one of the biggest problems online. In fact, I reduced it to a section within ‘Relationships (online)’, because I wanted to echo something that Nancy Willard had said:

Nancy Willard, who runs many cyberbullying workshops in schools, emphasizes 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 suggestion that there is a cyberbullying epidemic tends to encourage children to think that they can send hurtful messages because “everyone else is doing it”. Willard argues that the evidence is that at some point in their life 20 per cent have been either a victim or a perpetrator of cyberbullying. There’s a real need to collect more information about constructive behaviour online, and share that around, to help young people understand that the majority of people behave positively online. (p116, Raising Children in a Digital Age).

So, much of what I’ve written and shared about has been in relation to (school) children online, but we’ll be looking at bullying in general (what does it look like online/offline?), thinking about the particularities of bullying in Higher Education (I’m thinking of recent examples that I’ve seen, including the use of anonymous apps such as Yik-Yak, where students can be incredibly harmful comments about lecturers, potentially influencing groupthink), looking at the positives of aspects such as anonymity and disinhibition online, and means of managing bullying, thinking about our own and organisational responsibilities, and how tech can help provide solutions rather than always being seen as the problem.

I look forward to adding some more links below:

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Academic Digital Life(style) Speaker

[SPEAKER] Dealing with Bullying #YC14

This afternoon’s session – a huge topic …


[EXTRACTS]: #DigitalParenting on CyberBullying


A few extracts

Increased time spent online will most likely increase exposure to negative experiences – but also the positive opportunities. Nancy Willard, a cyberbullying expert, calls for us to work on the “understanding that the vast majority of young people want to make good choices, do not want to be harmed, and do not want to see their friends or others harmed”.7 We can’t control their whole environment, online or offline, so parents need to give their children the capability to deal with problems as they come across them.

Try: “Digiduck’s big decision” (re cyberbullying)

The start of a large section:

Taking that on board, let’s tackle another controversial issue, which has featured in frequent newspaper headlines. There have been high-profile cases, such as that of Megan Meier, who committed suicide after enduring extensive bullying online.20 Rehtaeh Parsons also committed suicide after photos of her being raped were circulated globally,21 and Olympic diver Tom 

Daley was taunted in 2012.22 In early 2013, The New York Times noted that there’s been a huge surge in anti-bullying books (something I discovered in my research for this book), spurred on in part by these high-profile cases. Several of these books are designed for parents to read together with their children, and they don’t necessarily all have happy endings.23

In all of this, we have to remember that these are the worst- case scenarios, tragic in every case but usually more complex than the headlines would have us believe. Social networking may be a factor, but it’s not the only one. We need to accept this if we want society to look for the right solutions to the problem, particularly ensuring that our own children are not tempted to become bullies themselves, or to stand by while others do the bullying.

The usual problems that children have always had in relating to other children (bullying, harassment, exclusion), [are] now transferred to a digital arena.

(Grandparents, 6 to 9)

Statistics and the particular nature of online bullying

The core difference between “traditional” bullying and “online” bullying is the nature of it. Previously, bullying would typically stop at the school gates, or at least once the child got home, although there was always the potential for phone calls, notes falling out of homework books, bricks through the window, or events replaying themselves in the mind. Online bullying, however, can be constant, happening any time of day and night, affecting the child regardless of location, including at home, and leaving a feeling that there is nowhere to escape to. The other particular characteristic of online bullying is that it is much easier for others to get involved quickly. It rapidly collects and remains permanently in cyberspace, rather than being a spur-of-the-moment action. It is therefore difficult to obtain “closure” because at any time the information might resurface and another episode of bullying, with accompanying public humiliation, could kick off.

I am concerned about the ability of some digital tools to amplify and broaden the kinds of thoughtless and/or mean-spirited peer-to-peer interactions that might at one time have existed in a scrawled note.

(Parent, 10 to 12)

Vodafone quoted research from the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) which indicates that at least two-thirds of teenagers have had positive experiences online, although most had witnessed mean behaviour to others, and less than a fifth reported being a target.24 Bullying is of particular concern to parents because of the emotional harm it can do and the way it can affect self-esteem, confidence, and school attendance and performance, and therefore overall life chances. Although the 2010 statistics for online-only bullying (6 per cent) are much lower than “traditional” bullying (19 per cent), the effects are felt more intensely, hence the huge concern about online bullying in particular.25 I was intrigued to see that, having shared the first few paragraphs of this section on Facebook, multiple people piled in with their experiences and suggestions of what was different, and how much impact bullying had had on their lives (even pre-digitally).

EXERCISE: Choose a video related to bullying (some examples here), and use it as a conversation starter with your children: 

Bullying, in its traditional form, involves aggressive and repeated actions over time by individuals or a group against a chosen victim. Cyberbullying adds a layer enabled through technology, most often via mobile phones. Parents need to be particularly aware of it between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, when there’s a noticeable peak in cyberbullying. The older child is more typically the perpetrator, although there are an increasing number taking the roles of both victim and bully, using the internet as a space to seek revenge, particularly on someone physically bigger.

ITV reported in February 2013:

  •  More than two-thirds of children say they have received abusive messages from someone they know.
  •  Almost half of youngsters keep the attack secret.
  •  One in five think sending a message in cyberspace is less damaging than face-to-face insults.
  •  Half the teenagers polled believe it is OK to say things online that you would not in person.
  •  A third of youths say they troll because their friends do so too.26

See this presentation from #CNMAC13, where I sought to summarise the issue in 10 minutes: