Quarter of young Brits confess to ‘bullying or insulting’ someone online

26 per cent of the 16-18 year olds have ‘bullied or insulted someone else’ online


Laptop black and whiteDemos is Britain’s leading cross-party think-tank: an independent, educational charity, which produces original and innovative research. Their new research mapping the behaviour and decision-making of young people online, identifies a shockingly high incidence of hostile online behaviour towards peers – often linked to having previously experienced abuse on social media. Significantly, it highlights the strong relationship between offline and online character and morality in young people.

  • 26 per cent of the 16-18 year olds surveyed say they have ‘bullied or insulted someone else’ online
  • 15 per cent of the young people surveyed said they had ‘joined in with other people to “troll” a celebrity or public figure’
  • Boys are significantly more likely to say they have bullied or insulted someone online than girls (32 per cent compared with 22 per cent) or ‘trolled’ a public figure (22 per cent compared with 10 per cent)
  • 93 per cent of those who said they had insulted or bullied someone else online, said that they had themselves experienced some form of cyber-bullying or abuse
  • Conversely, Demos finds that 88 per cent of the teenagers surveyed had given emotional support to someone online
  • Their analysis finds that young people with stronger traits of empathy and self-control are considerably less likely to engage in cyberbullying.
  • The major new research project, which spanned nine months, involved Demos surveying 668 16-to-18 year olds over Facebook, exploring their online behaviour and responses to various social media scenarios. Demos also held focus groups with 40 teenagers in London and Birmingham, as well as expert roundtables with teachers and other youth work professionals. Demos’ Centre for the Analysis of Social Media (CASM) also used innovative methods to analyse the dynamics and contents of ‘trolling’ attacks on Twitter.

    Demos’ focus groups found that young people are often drawn into cyber bullying because they are aware that their friends can see they are being bullied or insulted online, which leaves them compelled to respond in an aggressive way.

    Although the research finds that many young people are attuned to the moral implications of behaviour on social media many young people say they would take no action when they see someone they know being bullied online.

    At the same time, young people also clearly use social media to build friendships and express their beliefs in more positive ways: 88 per cent of the young people surveyed have given emotional support to a friend on social networking sites, and just over half (51 per cent) have posted about ‘a political or social cause that they care about’.

    Social media analysis by Demos looking at the dynamics of ‘trolling’ finds that although social media often facilitates the rapid spread of abuse online, it also gives young people the opportunity to exercise empathy and courage, by coming to the defence of the victim.

    Demos research finds that young people’s character – or the personal traits, values and skills that guide individual conduct – may be significant in determining the extent to which they engage in positive or negative behaviours online. Young people who admit to engaging in risky or unethical behaviour online are, for example, found to demonstrate lower levels of moral sensitivity to others, and have lower self-reported character strengths.

    Certain traits such as empathy, self-control and ‘civic mindedness’, seem particularly closely linked to different types of behaviour. Those with higher levels of empathy and self-control exhibit reduced likelihood of engaging in bullying over social media, while those with high levels of ‘civic mindedness’ are more likely to post about political or social issues.

    Based on the findings of the report, Demos made a number of recommendations, including:

  • The Department for Education should look to rejuvenate the character agenda within Government, through a third round of Character Education Grants, this time focused on developing good character online.
  • The Government should put digital citizenship at the heart of the new Digital Charter, and use its convening power to secure meaningful cross-sectoral collaboration over digital citizenship education.
  • Schools should look to deliver Digital Citizenship education which contains a strong emphasis on the moral implications of online social networking, with a focus on participatory approaches which seek to develop students’ moral and ethical sensitivity.
  • Schools should look to develop school-home links around digital citizenship, supporting parents to close the digital literacy gap and develop effective parental mediation approaches.
  • Commenting on the findings, the report’s author, Peter Harrison-Evans, Researcher at Demos said:
    This research also shows the links between character traits such as empathy and self-control, and how young people think and act on social media. It’s here that we feel policy-makers, schools, and parents can make the biggest difference – empowering young people to make a positive contribution to their online communities by building their social digital skills and increasing their online moral sensitivity.

    Find Out More

    Written by E-safety Support on November 23, 2017 10:44

    Cyber Self-harm - Methods and Motives

    SmartPhoneAs I write articles for E-safety Support, I occasionally think that I’ve come across everything now, that nothing can really shock me or sadden me, but then I will read an article in the press or somewhere online and realise that this is not the case and that as long as there is the internet, there will almost always be something out there that is truly more bizarre, more sad or more sickening than what I read previously.

    This is what I felt when I read about how some young people are actually going online and posting hurtful or abusive messages to themselves in the newest example of psychological self-harm. I have read countless articles about the increase in internet ‘trolling’ to the point that you can believe that at any one time, somewhere on the web, someone is receiving threats or being cyber-bullied in some way, most probably, by someone they have never met, but now it would appear that some people are actually doing this to themselves.

    A study carried out by the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Centre (MARC) discovered that out of 617 young people that were interviewed, 9% had actually cyber-bullied themselves online.

    There are various ways that teens ‘troll’ themselves. One method is to set up numerous profiles and send multiple abusive messages to themselves, things like “You are fat”, “Nobody likes you”, God, you’re ugly”, etc.

    But why would they do that?

    Psychologists who have studied this area say that young people with low self-esteem do this so that the comments posted by the “other people” (even when it is themselves sending the abuse from pseudo-profiles) offers confirmation of their own poor opinion of themselves.

    Another way of inflicting self-harm is to use the different forums or social media sites to post open questions about themselves inviting strangers to answer questions such as “Am I attractive”, ”Am I slim” or “Is my hair nice”, etc. Any negative responses that come back reinforce those feelings of lack of self-worth.

    Rachel Welch, who is the director of a self-harming charity, says that although cyber self-harming does not leave physical wounds, it should still ring emotional warning bells.

    “Self-harm like cutting yourself, is a physical response to emotional pain, it distracts the person from that pain. Cyber self-harm is replacing emotional pain with another form of emotional pain. This negative emotional reinforcement is extremely worrying. Self-harming behaviours can change rapidly and escalate.”

    It is often a desperate feeling of shame that causes someone to cyber self-harm and they typically find it hard to reach out and ask for help. What can help is for a young person who is, or thinking of, cyber self-harming, to talk to someone who doesn’t know them personally such as a qualified counsellor or ‘nominated adult’ at school. They will help them understand the reasons why they are doing such things to themselves without judging them and help them to nurture better feelings and emotions about themselves.

    For further information about self harm, visit stepup-international.co.uk where there is support for professionals and parents to help deal with this issue.

    Written by Steve Gresty on July 09, 2014 10:34

    Digital literacy

    In recent years, it would seem that every educational web site you visit refers to, if only in passing, the term 'digital literacy', but what does it actually mean and why has it become so imperative that we all, especially professional educators, become digitally literate to enable us to live and work effectively in the early 21st century?

    One definition of digital literacy is “the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate, and create information using digital technology.” It refers to a person's understanding and ability to make an informed decision on which digital tool to use for a specific everyday task and their respective skill in using that tool to produce a successful outcome.

    In the mid 19th century, it was realised how important it was that children should be able to read and write in order to raise their intellect, employability and hence their potential personal economic well-being. In later years, this allowed the development of a national workforce that had the ability to become highly trained and skilled in their respective fields. This resulted in the UK becoming a dominant commercial and industrial force in the world and consequentially improved the nation's wealth.

    Late in the 20th century, a new literacy began to command our attention; a literacy that could not be ignored by anyone who wanted to embrace new opportunities - digital literacy.

    As technology advances at an unrelenting pace and impacts every aspect of our working life and leisure time, the expectations we place on each other with regard to our individual abilities to interact with technology - our own digital literacy, continues to rise and this also applies to our personal abilities to understand and rapidly learn how to use any new piece of software or hardware. It's intriguing that the common perception of young people feeling exasperated by, what they see as, the general low digital literacy of older generations maybe true with regard to a certain functionality of say, a mobile phone or the intricacies of getting to the next level on a specific game; however, as any ICT teacher will tell you, their apparent vast digital knowledge vapourises when they need to construct a spreadsheet or design a database. It is only because, as children or adolescents, they are able to spend a great deal of time playing games or searching every nook and cranny of their respective phone's operating system, that they acquire so much knowledge, whereas adults have to deal with the mundanity of careers and home life and therefore don't have the time.

    As adults, and especially as education professionals, we must not only have extensive (and constantly improving) technological knowledge and skills, but also possess a broader digital literacy as a consequence of the perpetually developing digital abilities of students. Ten years ago it would have been unheard of for a teacher, or senior member of staff, to have to deal with a 'cyber-bullying' incident or, due to the phenomena of 'collecting friends' on a global scale through social-networking sites, having to be vigilant of the possibility of children unknowingly falling victim to a 'troll' or an online predatory paedophile. In this day and age, however, the digital literacies of school staff not only have to include how to source information on the web or present text in an infographic, but are also required to have knowledge and an awareness of the wider social (and sometimes darker) aspects of technology.

    Nowadays, we place much greater expectations on the quality and professionalism of products, documents and files that we use and receive - how surprised would you be if you received a hand written letter from your bank, even if it contained reasonably good hand writing? There is also a great deal of emphasis on the originality of documents. Historically, teachers relied on their own judgement and intuition to spot if students had colluded on a piece of homework; however, in 2013, the digital literacies of teachers should encompass the capability to use plagiarism software to check the authenticity of students work to ensure that they have not just lifted material from the web.

    For more information about digital literacy, download your free 'What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Digital Literacy' report from E-safety Support

    Written by Steve Gresty on September 04, 2013 10:21


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