Web the perfect trap for cyberbullies

5 Mar 2008

There is a general misconception that online bullies cannot be traced or caught, says Richard Piggin, communications manager for UK organisation Beatbullying, but once you’ve posted something online it leaves a fingerprint: it provides evidence of bullying.

Working with both bullies and victims of bullying, Beatbullying workshops educate children about their online presence and how logging on to the net to harass or pick on other kids can be tracked back to the computer and internet connection it came from, because part of tackling bullying is teaching the consequences, explains Piggin.

He says most children seem to be aware of the necessary steps to take if they are being bullied online. They know they must save the evidence, print it out and report the incident to a parent or teacher and the service provider in question, be it MySpace, Bebo, etc.

“All of these companies take the issue of cyberbullying very seriously. I recently spoke to a young man who had been bullied through Bebo. Bebo investigated the incident and immediately removed the bully’s account from the site.”

While the explosion in popularity of social networking sites like Bebo and Facebook has seen an increase in the migration of bullying to an online environment, Piggin says cyberbullying is simply the tip of the iceberg and despite media reports highlighting the dangers of the online world, most bullying happens offline.

However, Piggin said he has encountered some “pretty nasty stuff” with regard to cyberbullying: “I’ve seen hate sites targeting one person, humiliating pictures or videos of young people posted online by their peers, vile, obscene and abusive emails running for pages and pages.”

Piggin said the limiting or banning of access to these sites by parents is simply not the way to go about combating this kind of behaviour.

“Try and communicate with children using the same channels. Instead of criticism of these social networking sites parents and teachers should embrace them and use them to communicate with children.

Beatbullying did this last year when it partnered with YouTube and created a branded channel with a whole range of videos featuring both celebrities and young people talking about bullying.

By Marie Boran