Yesterday, Left Foot Forward posted a blog commenting on an interesting gender inequality point that had been raised by experts regarding the current issue of cyber bullying. Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, had said, ahead of a conference on cyber stalking and harassment: “It is critical that we make the link between this vicious online harassment and cyber bullying and real-life violence against women.”
Left Foot Forward agrees, writing, “Female journalists and campaigners seem to be more likely to be harassed and threatened online than their male counterparts and women who have left violent partners are at risk of being tracked down and threatened.”
But it’s not just women. A recent report by the NSPCC revealed that 10% of children faced daily abuse at the hands of internet trolls. The case of Hannah Smith, who killed herself after being bullied online, was a tragic example of what cyber bullying can do.
Stella Creasy MP, who has faced rape threats over Twitter, assigns this problem exclusively to the realm of digital, stating, “If I received a bomb threat through the post, there is a protocol for dealing with that, but if I receive it online there is nothing in place.”
Here strikes again the big bad internet wolf.
But this is unfair isn’t it? Bullying is bullying, wherever it takes place. Even if it’s in the playground, how visible is it, actually? According to recent US statistics on bullying, only 37% of teens reported being bullied while at school, whereas 52% of students reported being bullied online. What these statistics show is that either more teens get bullied online, or more teens speak up about being bullied online. I for one wouldn’t be surprised if the latter were true as, in the same way as trolls are bolder in their abuse due to anonymity, so are victims given courage by that extra distance that comes with being online, rather than face to face. This, then, becomes an encouraging statistic.
At any rate, when bullying occurs in the playground, we don’t condemn the environment in which it takes place. Similarly, let’s not write off social networking sites. There are many things that we can do, and the suggested ‘report abuse’ button for Twitter is a good place to start, but to those that would simply switch off social, were it even possible to do so, I would like to remind you that social networks are communities, filled with connections and conversation, ideas and initiatives. They encourage people, particularly the young, to talk to one another, find common ground, give endorsement and encouragement. That’s what social is. So, to those who are anti-social, stop being so antisocial.
All about the Idea is hosting All about the Cause during Social Media Week London to harness the power of social media and use it as a force for good. Get involved by visiting www.allaboutthecause.co.uk. You can also read Jo’s guest blog posts for SMWLDN via Chinwag here.