Online Abuse and Bullying

There has been a lot said over the last few days about Twitter Trolls, freedom of speech and bullying. I’m not going to dwell on that side of it just to say that making rape threats is unacceptable. Surely it would be better to treat people with the respect you would wish to be treated. I also don’t think silence is the answer in the words. A great man “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”~ Dr Martin King.

The internet and social media opens so many opportunities and chances to engage and speak to people from all over the world. But at times it has a darkside and this became apparent with the truly tragic death of 14yr old Hannah Smith. In the weeks leading up to Hannah’s death she received messages criticized her appearance and telling her to kill herself she tragically took her own life.

As a father my heart goes out to Hannah’s family and what they are going though, but another reason this touched me is my teenage son had recently suffered from online abuse on facebook. My teenage son was in the process of going though his exams and studying and preparing for his future he and his peers were under an enormous amount of stress and pressure and seemed to lead to some of his so called group of friends targeting him. At first me and his mother were unaware but it came to a head when a friend of mine called me and told me to look and my sons facebook page. I could not see anything, my ex wife called me after one of her friends had contacted her for the same reason and she could not see anything. It transpired that a so called friend had got my sons phone and tampered with the settings so me and his mother could not see what they were putting on my sons facebook page. And what they had put on in one afternoon was over 70 messages which had shocked and concerned mine and my ex wife friends into calling us.

After speaking to my son we found out this was only part of it. As I’ve said my son was going though a very intense time with exams and the bullying was having an effect on him. We sat in his room talking my son has been though and experienced a lot in his young life, the death of two grandparents his parents divorce amongst other things but as we sat there together my son was hurt like I’d never seen him heart before. He felt betrayed and that his life was ruined. I held my son and tried to reassure him to share my perspective but I’d never felt so helpless in my life.

It seems to me its harder now to be a teenager then it was in my youth. To do the comparative activities that some of the trolls do in my day they would of had to run to the phone box with a bag of 10p’s or send a hell of a lot of letters. But now they can sit behind a keyboard or phones and feel and inflated sense of bravery or even detachment. Also at times there seems to be a teenage survive instinct that leads to pack mentality. They feel that if someone else is being targeted its better them then me attitude.

I dont know the answers but what I do know is that something needs to change

If you or anyone you know feels emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or email jo@samaritans.org

And BeatBullying.org can offer advice and support

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