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Bully Children

One in four kids bullied online within last year

Bully Children

One in four kids bullied online within last year

An Ofcom study has revealed that nearly a quarter of children have experienced cyberbullying in the last 12 months, and the vast majority admit to having an experience online that could have been harmful.

According to the Online Nation, 23% of children have experienced online bullying in the last year, and nearly two in five (39%) have been subjected to offensive language. Perhaps most alarmingly of all, 79% of 12 to 15-year-olds say that something has happened to them online that was “potentially harmful”.

Not surprisingly, this has translated into increased fears among adults, 78% of whom now say they have concerns about using the internet, compared to 59% last year. The chief online harms of which grown-ups complain include spam emails (34%), fake news (25%), and fraudulent activity and scams (22%).

Respondents say social media is the main source of potential harm, with 28% of adults pointing the finger at Facebook, along with 16% at Instagram and 12% at Twitter.

Are websites and social media platforms doing enough?

Most adults don’t think so. Only 40% believe that social media and other websites have sufficient tools to keep their users safe. Among children, this rises slightly to 55%, even though it appears that more kids are encountering online threats than adults. Similarly, 61% of children think the net makes their life better, compared to 59% of adults.

This comes at a time when YouTube has found itself under scrutiny for, according to some observers, failing to tackle hate speech. Carlos Maza, a journalist for Vox, has asked YouTube to do something about the responses to his videos from conservative political commentator Steven Crowder, who uses homophobic and anti-Mexican slurs in his ‘debunking’ videos, while also mocking Maza’s speech impediment. Crowder himself argues that his insults are just “friendly ribbing” and that terms such as “lispy queer” are “harmless”.

YouTube has acknowledged that the language used is “hurtful”, but says the videos do not violate its policies. However, in what appears to be something of a compromise, it has demonitised Crowder’s YouTube channel.

A BBC article implies that YouTube’s stance is a confused one, and it hasn’t satisfied Maza or several other observers, some of whom question whether the site’s lenient stance is down to Crowder’s controversial channel having nearly four million subscribers. Others have accused YouTube of hypocrisy by giving its logo a rainbow makeover to celebrate LGBT Pride Month, but failing to clamp down on anti-gay content.

Sites like YouTube have a difficult job in appeasing all users and enforcing their guidelines in a way that still respects free speech, but social media sites need to continue to listen to the fears of those that use them. At Engage Web, we’re aware of the misery that can be caused by social media harassment, and have produced an eBook detailing how to trace a fake Facebook account.

John Murray

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