Hundreds of NI children contact Childline with bullying woes

An unhappy child
An unhappy child

NSPCC Northern Ireland is marking anti-bullying week with new figures revealing that almost 300 local young people turned to Childline last year with worries about bullying and cyberbullying.

But the true figure is believed to be much higher as as the country of origin was not given in several hundred cases asking for assistance.

Name-calling, spreading rumours, death threats and blackmail posted publicly on social media profiles, blogs and online pictures were just some of the ways young people told counsellors they were being tormented.

This year Anti-Bullying Week in Northern Ireland looks at the theme All Equal, All Different, All Together’ to empower children and young people to celebrate what makes them, and others, unique.

The NSPCC is calling on the UK Government to draw up a rulebook enshrined in law to require all social media sites to protect children from cyber-bullying and other online abuse.

These rules should require social media companies to introduce cyber-bullying alerts which flags bullying behaviour to moderators and sends notifications to young people being targeted.

In addition there needs to be strict privacy settings by default, clear and easy to understand reporting processes, and specially-trained child safety moderators.

The NSPCC have published advice for parents if they think their child is being bullied online:

Make sure they know they can come to you for help

Help them relax and take time out, away from electronic devices

Teach them how to stay safe online and to block abusive or humiliating content

Talk to your child's school or club about what’s been happening

Report online videos of bullying

Explain to them that our differences are important and they make you who you are

One boy told Childline:

“I'm being bullied on social media by people who call me fat and ugly. I can't block them because then they'll just bully me even more at school. I don't want to talk to my teachers about it, I just feel like giving up. I've been self-harming to cope but I just want to stop feeling this way.”

Cyber-bullying is also contributing to young people’s mental health issues, such as low self-esteem, depression, self-harming and suicidal thoughts.

The 24/7 nature of social media and the feeling they are unable to escape the bullies, even at home, can leave young people struggling to cope.

Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder and President of Childline said:

“Young people these days rely upon their mobile phones and social media to keep in touch with their friends, but inevitably that makes it easier for bullies to pursue their victims relentlessly. Whether bullying occurs online or in person it can have a devastating impact on a young person, destroying their confidence and leaving them isolated and vulnerable.

“Every year as a nation we lose precious young lives because bullying has made children and teenagers feel that life is not worth living. Childline wants to remind young people that they are not alone. We are here for them day and night, offering confidential help and advice on effective ways to beat the bullies.”

Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk

Parents can contact O2/NSPCC for free advice on keeping their children safe online on 0808 800 5002.