An inquiry has been carried out in order to explore what impact cyberbullying has on children, young people, and their mental health.
The inquiry included 1,089 people aged between 11-25. It also included social media companies, children’s charities and mental health professionals.
It was carried out by a panel including cross-party MPs such as Alex Chalk, and vlogger Grace Victory. Victory has previously spoken out about cyberbullying after receiving abuse online.
YoungMinds, the children’s society, and MP Alex Chalk published a new Safety Net Report. The findings show that young people can be subject to cyberbullying at all hours because social media has failed to make their sites safe for teenagers.
The inquiry discovered that cyberbullying can take many forms. This ranges from the sharing of information or private photographs to constant rude messages.
Nearly half of the young people that took part in the online survey, 47%, had experienced some form of cyberbullying, mostly threatening and horrible messages by means of text, social media apps, or email.
A concerning result from this inquiry showed that almost two thirds, or 63%, of the young people who took part said that they would not tell their parents if they were experiencing online bullying.
One participant, a girl of 15 said ‘you kind of expect to experience it: nasty comments on the selfie, facebook posts and twitter posts, people screen grabbing your snapchat story to laugh about it… I feel like it’s something people don’t take seriously. But leaving just one nasty comment could really hurt someone’.
The younger generations, who are the heaviest users of social media platforms, are found to be the most likely to have symptoms of both depression and anxiety.
The participants who had been cyberbullied told the panel that they would constantly check their feeds to see if they had received anything else.
These findings are on top of the links between cyberbullying and self-harm and suicide which academics have already established.
The 15 year old girl went on to say that ‘social media companies should take complaints more seriously. If someone reports something, they shouldn’t take days to review it, they should literally just remove it straight away’.
‘The reaction from adults is to just delete your account to stop the bullying, but that’s taking something away from that young person’s life for something that’s not their fault’.
Alex Chalk, leader of this inquiry, said ‘cyberbullying can devastate young lives, but to date the response from social media companies has been tokenistic and inadequate. It has failed to grip the true scale of the problem. For too long they have been marking their own homework and it’s time they became for more transparent, robust and accountable’.
This statement is supported by the participants according to the Safety Net Report. Most of the respondents feel there are no consequences for online bullies, and 83% want social media companies to do more.
The inquiry recommends that social media companies: respond to reports of bullying within 24 hours, give young users clearer guidelines on how to behave online, and take tougher action on those who break the rules.