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Monday 25 September 2017

Teenage tales of the cyber community's sinister side

Four students give an insight into the online bullying that is a growing worry for parents and teachers

Sarah Mcconnell

LIKE most people of my age, my first venture into social media was Bebo at the age of 12. For me, it was exciting to hook up with friends online, chat, upload photos and just mess about.



Now 16 and in a very respectable school in a good area, my friends and I have progressed, like most, on to Facebook.

With free internet on our phones, access to Facebook and other social networking sites like Twitter has become very instant and very easy.

However, even from early on, the threat of online bullying was there. It would come in the form of a bitchy comment between one girl and another.

Such bitchy comments would range from how people looked or what they wore to what friends they hung out with or as simple as what they may have said in class.

"Did you see her hair today?" or "she puts me in bad mood" or "do you see how she goes on," are just a mild sample of what would be said

On other occasions, I know of people being far nastier to others about how they looked, their weight and about how many boyfriends one girl may or may not have had.

When I first went online, the level of abuse was minimal enough but certainly from third year onwards the level of bitchiness grew and grew.

Often, the person would update their Facebook status and say something nasty. While it mightn't mention any names, the implication was clear. Those who would see the status update would know the meaning of the bitchy comment.

I have seen girls in my year get upset by what was written about them, though rarely would it lead to a face-to-face confrontation in the classroom or in the schoolyard.

In my experience, it is girls who are engaged in this nasty cycle of attacking each other. Boys of our age in our circle of friends don't do any of this, and certainly not to any of the girls.

I have never had to get my parents involved but I know of several girls who had to delete their Facebook accounts because they were being attacked online.

Also many of us who were not the target of online attacks have deleted or blocked girls who are dishing out the abuse because it had become too much.

In most cases, I'm sure girls are writing status updates unaware that what they are writing would hurt anybody's feelings. There are, of course, a minority of those who seek to hurt deliberately but in my experience they are a small group fishing for likes (looking for attention).

Often these girls are told if they have a problem with someone to "face it, not Facebook it", meaning say it to their face and not hide online.

By and large, we don't see the level or sort of aggressive cyber bullying you see in America or England.

It's just girls being girls, but from time to time some take it too far.

Sunday Independent

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