Cyber Bullying in MK

20 April 2010, 13:27

An anti-bullying campaigner in Milton Keynes has set up an online survey to try and find out more about Cyber Bullying.

Alex Holmes - who works with local schools to tackle all forms of bullying - got the idea after a number of young people told him they'd been affected by the issue.

Alex told Heart the bullying can take many forms:

"Maybe it's been online, on the internet, on social networks, but it's also been on things like games consoles, so it seems to be a really big issue.

"Cyber Bullying can get really serious. Imagine being in your bedroom and being bullied. It's that bad and you don't know what to do about  it - especially when it's anonymous. I think it's a massive issue not just for the city but for the whole country."

If you want to take part in the survey click here

Alex told us about the results he's got so far:

"Just under half of the respondents so far thought that Cyber Bullying has affected them or someone they know. Half don't know who to report it to. The sort of thing that Cyber Bullying can have an affect on are things like losing sleep, not being able to concentrate in school and in some cases self harming."

Once all of the results have been collected, Alex plans to set up a taskforce in Milton Keynes to address the issue further.

Alex recommends the following advice for anyone affected by Cyber Bullying:

  • Report it- any cyberbullying you suffer should be reported, whether it's an on-line group against you, nasty comments, a text message or threatening on-line chats, it's still bullying and isn't ok, so make sure you report it. Social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo all have report abuse buttons, as do most mobile phone networks such as o2, Orange and Vodafone etc. You can also block and report abuse on MSN, by clicking 'help' on the top tool bar. All service providers have a duty to make sure their users feel safe.
  • Block the bully- there's always a way to stop the bully from contacting you on social networks, mobile phones, instant messaging and even games consoles so check out the privacy or safety settings of the service you are using to find out how or even try searching 'block' or 'abuse' in the help section. 
  • Passwords- make sure for any account you have, you have a strong password that you don't tell any one, this will mean people can't access your account and steal any info, pictures or personal data or pretend to be you. Change your password regularly.
  • Keep the evidence- make sure you save or copy any cyberbullying such as texts or MSN conversations you receive so the necessary people can investigate as everyone can be traced no matter how they bully. A good way to do this is to press the 'PrtScrn' button on the right hand side of the keyboard which prints the screen and you then copy and paste this into word or try using window's 'Snipping tool'.
  • Don't reply or answer back- don't become a cyberbully yourself, instead deal with the bully by blocking and reporting the abuse.
  • On-line friends- remember when you accept someone as your friend on instant messaging or social networks, they can access all your personal data, pictures and information, so make sure you are happy for them to do this. 
  • What do you want people to know about you?- check out the privacy settings which will allow you to choose what information you share with the world, for example you can set your profile or data to private or only allow certain people to contact you and view particular information. Don't ever share where you live, your telephone number or email address with cyberfriends as who knows who could see this.

The most important thing is that you tell someone about the bullying:
If possible this should be an adult that you trust such as your parent, your teacher, mentor, boss, colleague or a relative but you could tell a friend or a brother/sister. Bascially ANYONE! They'll work with you to sort the problem.

Other people you can tell include...

  • School- if the cyberbullying is happening at school, it's important to tell them and ask them to investigate it.
  • Service provider- e.g your mobile phone network or the social network site. Most service providers in the UK have special teams whose job it is to investigate complaints of harassment and abuse so make sure you let them know about what is happening on their service. So check out their websites or give them a ring to find out more.
  • Police- if you feel that the cyberbullying is particularly serious including continuous intimidating, threatening, sexual or grooming behaviour you should contact your local police as some serious cyberbullying activity can be a criminal offence under a range of different laws, including:

1.      The Protection from Harassment Act 1997
2.      The Malicious Communications Act 1988
3.      Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003
4.      Public Order Act 1986
5.      The Defamation Acts of 1952 and 1996. 

Advice for Parents/Guardians-

  • Make sure you know what websites your children are using. 
  • Talk to them about how they can keep safe using technology, making sure they know that they can speak to you if they were ever being bullied. 
  • Sit down together and look at ways they could report abuse or block certain individuals on services. 
  • Ask them to teach you about social networks, instant messaging etc so that you are more aware about what they are doing on-line. 
  • Encourage them to act responsibly when using the technology and talk to them about the dangers of the internet and their activity remaining around forever.