Counselling for cyber-bullying has doubled says children’s charity

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Childline, run by the NSPCC, reports 47% more children in Stoke-on-Trent have been victims of cyber-bullying.

The NSPCC taught more than 23,000 Staffordshire pupils in a single year, on how to keep themselves safe.

The charity’s pioneering ‘Speak Out. Stay Safe’ programme which encourages children to feel empowered to talk to a trusted adult or Childline, reached 6,767 pupils in Stoke-on-Trent and 16,587 in Staffordshire during the 2016/17 academic year.

Sandra McNair, NSPCC Regional Head of Service for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire, said: “Young people these days rely upon their mobile phones and social media to keep in touch with their friends, but inevitably that makes it easier for bullies to pursue their victims relentlessly.

“Whether bullying occurs online or in person it can have a devastating impact on a young person, destroying their confidence and leaving them isolated and vulnerable.

“Every year as a nation we lose precious young lives because bullying has made children and teenagers feel that life is not worth living.

“Childline wants to remind young people that they are not alone. Counsellors are here for them day and night, offering confidential help and advice on effective ways to beat the bullies.”

Last year, Childline counselled more children about cyber-bullying than ever before.

Technology is increasingly being used with various messaging platforms, meaning youngsters are now able to victimise classmates silently in front of unsuspecting parents and teachers.

Childline delivered 5,103 counselling sessions to children affected by cyber-bullying in 2016/17, up 12%, from 4,541, the year before and 2,410 in 2011/12.

Figures released at the start of Anti-Bullying Week revealed Childline’s base in the West Midlands delivered more than 600 counselling sessions about cyber-bullying in 2016/17 – a 47 per cent increase in the last five years.

Name-calling, spreading rumours, death threats and blackmail posted publicly on social media profiles, blogs and online pictures were just some of the ways young people told counsellors they were being tormented.

Children as young as nine told Childline counsellors they were being targeted by online bullies, with girls aged 12 to 15-years-old receiving the most counselling sessions about this issue.

One boy told Childline:

“I’m being bullied on social media by people who call me fat and ugly. I can’t block them because then they’ll just bully me even more at school. I don’t want to talk to my teachers about it, I just feel like giving up. I’ve been self-harming to cope but I just want to stop feeling this way.”

Cyber-bullying is also contributing to young people’s mental health issues, such as low self-esteem, depression, self-harming and suicidal thoughts.

The NSPCC is calling on the Government to draw up a rulebook with a law that requires all social media sites to protect children from cyber-bullying.

This includes introducing cyber-bullying alerts to flag bullying behaviour to moderators.

Martha Evans, National Coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance who runs Anti-Bullying Week said: “These worrying statistics from the NSPCC shows what an important issue cyber-bullying is for young people today.

“The social pressures that children face are immense and this is compounded by messaging online. We know bullying often starts face to face and spreads into the digital world.

“We should all be doing more, including social media companies, the Government, schools, parents and anti-bullying charities, to spread the message online as well.”

Children and young people can contact Childline for free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk.

Parents can contact O2/NSPCC for free advice on keeping their children safe online on 0808 800 5002.

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