This year’s Anti-bullying Week runs from Monday 16th–Friday 20th of November and the theme is: ‘United Against Bullying’. The last part of the Anti-Bullying Alliance manifesto for this year states: ‘We’re all a piece of the puzzle, and together, we’re united against bullying’. This statement is key to the fight against bullying — we must be united. If people unite and take a stand against bullying, there is hope for change.
We are living in strange times, and the issue of cyberbullying appears to be on the increase. Many countries are experiencing lockdowns and, with more people working and studying at home, there have been more reported cases of online bullying. Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place online via digital devices. In today’s age of social media, this form of bullying is all the more prevalent. There is also the added protection of anonymity because cyberbullies can hide behind their screens or keyboards. This gives the bully extra confidence and they feel encouraged to say things they would not normally say face-to-face.
Although cyberbullying is not as direct as general, face-to-face bullying, the effects are the same. The target of cyberbullying may suffer both psychological and emotional distress and there is a significant risk of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and social isolation. Because the bullying takes place online and is often carried out via social media, the contents and messages can be viewed by extended circles including strangers. Therefore, as with other information posted online, the bully’s comments become public property — they are always ‘out there’ in cyberspace, available to be seen 24/7. In effect, they stand as a constant reminder of the cruel and bullying behaviour.
As with direct and indirect bullying, there are signs that indicate an individual is being cyberbullied. If we are ‘United Against Bullying’, we are ever vigilant, always on the alert and looking out for these signs, especially where children and teenagers are involved. Some of these signs include:
- Changes in behaviour — they may be quieter than usual, jumpy and nervous or unusually morose
- Altered sleeping habits — they may suffer from insomnia or are spending longer in bed than usual
- Unusually secretive — particularly around phones or other devices
- Changes in eating habits — they may be eating more or less than usual
If you notice any of these signs it might mean that something is wrong. Another red flag for cyberbullying is the avoidance of social situations, even ones which were previously enjoyed.
If you talk to a suspected target of bullying and offer support, it can be the first step towards preventing bullying. United Against Bullying means more than simply calling out someone’s behaviour. It means being there, supporting a suffering individual and making them aware that this behaviour is not acceptable or condoned. Let them know it is ok to stand up and refuse to accept the bully’s behaviour. When a target of bullying knows they have support, including someone to talk to and confide in, they will know there is hope and that they are part of a united approach against bullying.