The rise of the cyber bully

By Rhea Turner

When most people think of the word crime, a mugging or a murder springs to mind. But there is a new crime on the rise and it is tearing lives apart.

Cyber Bullying is the new crime on the block. Statistics show that a shocking half of adolescents and teenagers have been bullied online, with the same percentage having engaged in cyberbullying and more than 1 in 3 young people has experienced threats from cyberbullies.

Cyber bullying is invading people’s technology and their homes. And the impact it is having is devastating. Like any form of bullying, victims can be left with low self-esteem, confidence issues and isolate themselves. Unfortunately this is not the worst of it.

In October 2006, Megan Meier an American teenager was found hanging three weeks before her 14th birthday. An investigation into her death found that her suicide was attributed to cyber bullying through social network Myspace.

Codie Wileman, 19, is a student from Church Gresley who knows only too well how cyber bullying can damage people’s lives. She was cyber bullied by someone she knew for over a year on social media platforms including ask fm and facebook. During this time Codie was labelled ‘weird and fat’ as well as an ‘attention seeking ugly sl*t’ and told to ‘slit her throat as it would be better for everyone if she was dead.

She said: “Cyber bullying is emotionally destroying. It was the worst year of my life. I felt unwanted and often went to bed hoping that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. Because its on the internet it is public and I constantly felt like I was being laughed at. I didn’t feel like I had the freedom to wear what I wanted or be myself.

It was so mentally draining. Cyber bullies don’t think about the scars, the pain and the consequences. The problem is they probably don’t even realise what they are doing and maybe they would think twice if they knew that cyber bullying is a criminal offence.”

Codie advises victims of cyber bullying to report it and hopes that by doing so they will raise awareness of the dangers of cyber bullying and the seriousness of the crime. She said:           “Tell someone before it gets too late, don’t allow some low-life on the computer to define who you are.”

Codie also has a message for the cyber bullies. She urges them to think before they act, she wants them to know that they are destroying lives.’

Emma Riordan, 26, is a community manager from Mackworth, Derby. She monitors social media activity in the video games industry and has witnessed vile acts of cyber bullying which has resulted in trauma for people she knows.

She witnesses cyber bullying on a daily basis in her job but was shocked when a colleague of hers was abused personally on twitter.

She said: “She was the victim of abuse on a scale I’d not seen before. They were insisting she was a fraud and impersonating someone else, calling her ugly, telling her she should kill herself before someone else killed her to do the world a favour. It was horrible. From the nature of the tweeting, the person behind the abuse was clearly suffering with some sort of mental illness or issues but it was still disturbing to see.”

The experience opened Emma’s eyes to the strength of social media platforms and the anonymity they provide for bullies. She said: “These cyberbullies feel that by masking their identity they can get away with appalling behaviour.

“Those who hide their identity perhaps feel they can say things online that they couldn’t bring themselves to say in real life. And because the abuse is carried out privately rather than in public with witnesses, that the victim is less likely to speak out.”

Cyber bullying can have many long -term effects and has the ability to make victims feel very alone.

Emma said: “The abuse goes directly to the personal devices with which victims rely on in their everyday lives, it violates them. And can go unseen by the victim’s relatives.”

But what happens when the tables are turned on these bullies?

Brenda Leyland, 63, committed suicide after being exposed as a troll who targeted the family of missing girl Madeline McCann. She tweeted about Kate and Gerry McCann 4,220 times in a year accusing them of neglect and playing in a role in their daughter’s disappearance. Shortly after being confronted by a news crew on her tweets, Mrs Leyland took her own life.

Such tweets, messages and threats are prominent in todays technologically based culture, and increasingly in gaming, but Cyberbullying is not a game. It’s a crime.

If you are the victim of cyber bullying and would like some support contact: http://www.cybersmile.org/helpline

Case Study

A 24-year-old English woman, Michelle Chapman, was recently sentenced to 20 months in prison after bullying herself on her own Facebook page. She created multiple fake accounts and posted crude, hostile remarks on her personal Facebook page, with the purpose of framing her mother and stepfather.

Chapman set up multiple profiles in the names of her family members, and sent herself many abusive messages over the course of a year, many of which, were of a “very unpleasant sexual nature.”

As strange as this case is, it’s had real and harmful effects. The marriage between her father and stepmother deteriorated in the wake of the allegations, and several other relatives of Chapman’s had their lives disrupted by police.

“People have suffered a great deal of distress as a result of your wicked behavior,” the ruling judge in the case said.

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