In this opinion piece, Jack McCann argues that much more could be done within schools and colleges to tackle cyber bullying.
Last week I heard about kids being bullied via social media, however what surprised me was the platform that was used - Instagram. The place that is a playground for the likes of Dan Bilzerian to show-off his wealth, Jen Selter her ass, or Taylor Swift and her quirkiness.
Bullying is one of the worst things that can happen to a person during their early years in school, college or even the workplace.
However, when you’re only 10 or 12, and people who are meant to be class mates say mean things to you and you don’t know what you did to deserve such treatment, then it can severely affect the child for days, weeks and potentially years in the future.
The Department of Education define bullying as, “unwanted negative behaviour, verbal, psychological or physical conducted by an individual or group against another person (or persons) and which is repeated over time.”
Cyber Bullying, as defined by Barnados on their website, "is when instant messages, emails, text messages or webpages are used to spread rumours, make threats or harass. It can include written messages, photographs, videos or voice messages."
Nearly 75% of kids under eight in America, and the same can probably be said for Ireland, have access to a mobile device of some form, therefore, when they reach the age of 12 and start secondary school many of them will be tech savvy already.
Physical bullying is tough enough, however cyber-bullying is a different beast entirely. No matter where you go, if you have a smart phone, which these days is most likely true for a lot of school kids, there is little to no escape. Messages can be sent via Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, emails or texts. Images can also be sent on the same platforms alongside Instagram and Snapchat as well.
Therefore cyber bullying can penetrate the home, a place where kids are supposed to feel safe and comfortable. Being bullied at such a young age and in such an invasive way can severely harm a kid in many ways.
Bullying at that age is probably the most deplorable due to many of the kids not fully understanding what is going on, therefore not only are they upset at what is being said, but also because they are confused as they do not understand the full meaning of the language directed at them.
Incidents of cyber-bullying involving second level students in 2014 was 16%, an increase of over 33% when compared to 2013 in research conducted and published by the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) last year.
With the number of social media platforms seemingly going to continue to expand at a rapid rate, that percentage will only grow wider if something is not done quickly.
College is traditionally where people, no matter who they are, can be 100% themselves without fear of being targeted in anyway. However, from a survey conducted by Lian McGuire from the Trinity College Anti-Bullying Research Centre it was found that, "Bullying affects 14% of college students".
However, the number of students who said it was in the form of cyber bullying was only 3.5%, nearly five times less compared to the percentage at second level.
Why is there such a difference?
Plain and simple, the majority of college students are mature and have a lot more important things to be worrying about then making sure they insult or abuse someone in a systematic way.
Bullying, whether it is physical or through the web, is not acceptable on any level. It doesn’t matter if a person is nine or ninety. A hard line, which is already taken in many places, needs to be taken universally. That way the message gets across all aspects of society that bullying of any form is a deplorable act and is not acceptable no matter what ‘excuse’ may be given.
To finish, treat others like you want to be treated and as Barbara Bush puts it, "never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people - your family, friends, and co-workers, and even strangers you meet along the way."