Merseyside schoolchildren as young as nine bullying each other on an unprecedented scale

Liverpool Echo, 2/3/2014, UK

Merseyside schoolchildren as young as nine are bullying each other on an unprecedented scale thanks to the internet. Mobile phones and laptops mean youngsters can send each other cruel taunts and spread vicious rumours quicker than ever. One anti-bullying charity in Liverpool says 85% of victims now calling its helpline have suffered cyber-bullying, rather than just face-to-face abuse. Bullybusters told the ECHO girls between nine and 15 years old are most commonly involved in cyber-bullying, as both tormentors and victims. And the NSPCC said its Liverpool ChildLine base offered counselling to 326 online bullying sufferers last year.

This was equivalent to 7% of all cyber-bullying counselling sessions offered by the charity across the UK. Kayte Walsh, Bullybusters’ project co-ordinator, said: “These days a feud in the playground will end up online. “Usually cyber-bullying is done by a number of young people. It’s not usually one-on-one. “A gang will usually be derogatory about someone or will spread rumours.” Ms Walsh said new forms of social media had made cyber-bullying more common. She said Facebook is the website where online abuse is most frequent, followed by Twitter, instant messenger WhatsApp and photo-sharing service Snapchat. Ms Walsh said: “A rumour at school in the olden days spread to 40 or 50 people at most, but now it can reach thousands of people online. “If someone bullies a person at school, it can continue 24 hours a day thanks to the internet.
“You can’t just go home. You can’t escape a cyber-bully because they’re there on your smartphone or laptop.”

Ms Walsh warned more and more schoolchildren are using technology to share sexually explicit photos. “A young person can easily do something stupid online, such as post a naked or topless photo, and be bullied for it,” she said. “Or it could fall into the hands of paedophiles.
“Young girls see Rihanna and Miley Cyrus in music videos where they are near-enough naked. “Because of this, more and more young people see fit to share inappropriate images. “A girl might take a picture and send it to her boyfriend as a way of flirting. But once she’s done it, she could be bullied or get a reputation. “You wouldn’t take your clothes off in the middle of Anfield on match day, but that’s exactly what you are doing when you put inappropriate images online because of the speed they can be shared and distributed. “Everyone can make mistakes. The problem is that some mistakes are becoming permanent at such a young age.”

Ms Walsh said education was key to tackling cyber-bullying. She called for lessons in online safety while children are still at primary school. She also said parents have a responsibility to ensure their kids are safe.
“Parents are often too ignorant and don’t realise what their kids are doing online,” she said. “Strictly speaking, it’s parents’ responsibility to make sure their children are safe online.”

Useful tips to take back control
Here are the NSPCC’s tips for beating the cyber-bullies

Talk to an adult you trust. They can help you report the bullying, listen to you and give you support and confidence to deal with the situation. If you aren’t ready to talk to somebody you know, you can contact ChildLine 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on the phone on 0800 1111 or online at Remember to keep a copy of any abusive texts, emails, comments or messages that you receive and record the date and time they were sent. With cyber-bullying there is always a trail and keeping records can be very useful when it comes to reporting the bullying. Try not to reply to any messages you receive. It can encourage the bullies and end up upsetting you more. Never give out any personal details on the internet – your real name, address, age or phone number. Even telling someone which school you go to can help them find out more about you. If you are being bullied on a social network you could think about whether you want to delete your profile or make it temporarily inactive. You can block email address or chat users if you are being bullied by email or instant messenger. You can bar a particular number from contacting another phone on some handsets. Check your phone user guide to see if yours can.