NSPCC finds one in five children have experienced cyber-bullying
An NSPCC survey has found that one in five children have been the victim of cyber-bullying and other unwanted negative experiences on social networking sites over the past year.
The NSPCC survey, which is due to be published in full in November 2013, also found that 10% of 11 to 16-year-olds have been targeted by internet trolls on a daily basis.
The impact of trolling and cyber-bullying was highlighted by the suicide of Hannah Smith from Leicestershire. The 14-year-old, who was found hanged earlier this month, had been taunted and sent a number of abusive messages including one telling her to “drink bleach”, on the question and answer forum Ask.fm.
The prime minister, David Cameron, has called for an advertising boycott of the Latvian site. Nevertheless, cyber-bullying messages continue to be posted on the website, with some urging users to cut their wrists, threatening rape and a number encouraging suicide, including one which said: “Just kill yourself, even your mum wants you dead.”
Ask.fm has said that its moderators “ensure genuine concerns are acted upon immediately”. However, one of the biggest concerns about the site is the ability of users to post questions anonymously.
Following the death of Hannah Smith, the website, which had 13.2 million daily visitors in June, instructed a law firm to carry out a “full and independent audit” of the site and its safety features.
The NSPCC survey, which interviewed more than 1,000 children aged 11 to 16 years, revealed the worrying extent of the problem of cyber-bullying amongst children. A particular issue the research highlights is the number of children using sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter who are under the sites’ minimum age of 13.
Claire Lilley, the NSPCC’s safer technology expert, said that the cyber-bullying of children on social networking sites “is something that must be tackled before it gets out of hand”.
“We are particularly worried about the impact of these risks on younger children, and this is what our forthcoming report will focus on,” she said, adding: “We must ensure young people have the confidence to speak out against this abuse, so that they don’t feel isolated and without anywhere to turn.”
Trolling and cyber-bullying have been in the headlines over the past few months with recent tweets threatening bomb attacks, rape and murder to a number of prominent women including TV historian Mary Beard, Stella Creasy MP and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez.