Online Bullying: Laugh at it and You’re Part of It

Whereas once the bullying that occurred in school corridors or in the streets could be escaped from at home, now every part of a child’s private world can be touched by bullying, and it can be seen by absolutely everyone who knows you and thousands who don’t. The scope for harassment and bullying is now immense.

The government has launched a series of online ads in a crackdown on online bullying, as reported in this article in The Guardian. Online bullying involves text messages, instant messaging services, messages or pictures sent to mobile phones, and comments, messages and pictures left on sites such as MySpace and YouTube. Whereas once the bullying that occurred in school corridors or in the streets could be escaped from at home, now every part of a child’s private world can be touched by bullying, and it can be seen by absolutely everyone who knows you and thousands who don’t. The scope for harassment and bullying is now immense.

The hard hitting ads (“Bullying causes depression, self harm and even suicide”) finish with the line “laugh at it and you’re part of it”. It’s an interesting strategy targeting not bullies themselves but the unwitting accomplices who laugh, link to the cruel jokes or forward them. Maybe no one wants to admit that they themselves are a bully, or maybe those who bully are impervious to criticism, after all they intend to hurt the person concerned. Bullies rely on their accomplices, unwitting ones as well, to feed the sense of power over others that they crave. Where this need comes from is a more fundamental problem and one that parents and schools need to be bearing in mind from a much younger age. But these ads may do a reasonable job at damage limitation, helping to create a different kind of culture around the bullies and their victims, one in which it is not so easy to pass something on without thinking, and without wanting to think, that the butt of the joke is a real person like you.

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