The Prevention of Young Suicide charity PAPYRUS mainly takes calls from its helpline from 11- to 18-year-olds, 40% of whom speak about the effects of cyberbullying with the dominating theme that there “is no escape” from it.
But HOPELineUK is also contacted by younger children, and those aged up to 25, which means it’s an issue parents need to be aware of before their kids start secondary school.
In response to the findings, the charity has launched a hard-hitting video titled #BedtimeStories, showing the harsh comments children experience online.
They hope to highlight the fact that children tend to read such comments at night, and they keep them up because they are alone with no one around to tell them to ignore them.
Examples of calls to the charity’s helpline include children saying: “I wish I wasn’t here, everyone is saying nasty things about my picture on Facebook” and “people are telling me the truth about what they think of me on social media and that they want me to die”.
In the film, a mum sits down with her daughter in bed holding a book and reads out comments the child has read online about herself. These include: “you have no friends” and “your hair always look greasy”. The child is then left alone in the dark reading the comments on her laptop.
A PAPYRUS spokesperson said parents have told them they often have no idea their son or daughter may be reading these comments or experiencing the negative side of social media. The charity hopes to encourage parents to start a conversation with their kids about their online activity.
“Social media can be a hugely positive influence in young people’s lives, but it is timely to remind parents about the more sinister aspects of some of our children’s digital activity and, sadly, what they are saying to each other online,” said Ged Flynn, PAPYRUS’ chief executive.
“Children and young people tell us daily that they feel the bullying behaviour they experience will never stop, so often they feel that they may as well be dead. In short, cyberbullying can kill.”
PAPYRUS shared guidelines with HuffPost UK for parents to share with young people detailing what to do if they are being bullied online:
1. Remember it’s not you, it’s them: “No one has the right to make you feel this way.”
2. Don’t react: “Reaction and retaliation are two things people who bully strive for. Instead, surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself and think about switching off social media.”
3. Save, block and report: “Make sure you screenshot or take a picture of the comments. You can report their comments to the social media site, too.”
4. Tell someone: “Speak to a trusted adult or friend so you can get support.”
5. Take action: “Take the next step, whether it’s telling the people who are bullying to stop or speaking to those who can do that for you. It may be beneficial to allow the school to address the situation.”
If you are a young person or worried about a young person, contact PAPYRUS HOPELineUK for confidential, practical help and advice: telephone 0800 068 41 41 text 07786 209 697 or email firstname.lastname@example.org