Suffolk: Parents warned of the dangers children face online as expert warns youngsters are being bullied in their bedrooms
PUBLISHED: 17:30 21 February 2013 | UPDATED: 17:30 21 February 2013
AS a new report published this week reveals one in five youngsters in Suffolk have fallen victim to Cyberbullies, reporter LIZZIE PARRY spoke to expert Dr Emma Bond, a senior lecturer at UCS, about the hidden dangers children face online.
IT is no great revelation that we live in a virtual world.
We spend our lives online, hooked up to social networking sites, just a text, call, e-mail, tweet or direct message away from reality.
But the same is true for our children.
And a shocking rise in the number of young people plugged into the virtual world at all times of day and night has led experts at UCS in Ipswich to warn of a dark and nasty side to the world wide web.
Bullying is a known and recognised problem in society, particularly among children.
But a new report, the Suffolk Cybersurvey, published on Tuesday – Safe Internet Day – has revealed bullies are invading our children’s bedrooms.
Not through an open window or by invitation but via a nasty, vindictive virtual world which is exposing youngsters to a torrent of hurtful abuse in their most private of sanctuaries.
The report, commissioned by e-safer Suffolk and funded by Suffolk Children’s Trust, revealed around one in five youngsters had fallen victim to bullies online, and of those only 52% had sought help to stop it.
Expert and joint author of the research, Dr Emma Bond, a senior lecturer in applied sciences at UCS, said cyberbullying is defined as “campaigns of harrassment conducted via communications technology such as the internet and mobile phones”.
Dr Bond warned parents it is vital they are aware of cyberbullying and the serious consequences for young people.
“Cyberbullying can lead to poor self-esteem, children feeling frightened, truancy and in extreme cases it has been cited as a significant factor in recent, national cases of teenage suicide,” she said.
“That is why it is so important for Suffolk to take it seriously.
“It can be very persistent with text messages, e-mails and social networking sites all giving bullies an avenue to bombard their victim.
“Some children feel there is no escape. Their world’s are very virtual, and everybody can see nasty comments made about them.
“It is a very public type of bullying.”
The survey of 2,838 10 to 18 year olds revealed access to internet enabled smartphones and tablets has nearly doubled since 2012.
It has prompted Dr Bond to call for greater awareness campaigns, starting in primary schools, to help educate children – equipping them with the life tools to cope with the issue.
“Our message to parents is make sure you are aware of cyberbullying, how serious it can be so that if your child comes to you and says it is happening to them you understand what it entails and what you can do and how to report it,” she added.
“It is so important parents don’t just discount it.
“Children may post something thinking it is a bit of a joke or a bit of revenge without really thinking through the consequences of their actions.
“You wouldn’t shout at someone in the street so why think it is ok to say something online?”
Whereas in the past computers were a staple in any family room, children are now accessing free to log on via their phones or tablets at anytime and in any place.
It is giving bullies a new way of inflicting their vicious attacks – by invading their victims’ bedrooms.
In Suffolk the number of 10 to 18 year olds using smartphones and tablets jumped from 41% last year to 71% this year.
“If a child was bullied online in the past, it was more likely that a parent would be able to see, because the computer was more likely to be in a communal place,” Dr Bond added.
“But children are being bullied in their bedrooms now. And with things like Blackberry messenger it is much easier for children to say something really nasty and send it to everyone in their phone book with one click of a button.”
She said she would like to see more education in schools and from other organisations.
“It is not just the responsibility of schools. We have been working with e-Safer Suffolk to look at how we can get young people to behave more responsibly online.
“These issues aren’t going to go away.”