A quarter of Childline calls on bullying involve online abuse

cyber bullying

Almost a quarter of Scottish children who contacted Childline about bullying in the past year were concerned with online abuse, new figures show.

The charity said 201 of the 873 counselling sessions it arranged were connected to cyber bullying.

Children as young as seven told Childline counsellors they were being tormented by malicious and hurtful messages.

Across the UK, the charity counselled 4,541 children about online bullying.

That 2015/2016 figure represented an 88% increase from 2,410 in 2011/12.

The findings, released at the start of Anti-Bullying Week, showed that in a quarter of counselling sessions children and young people across the UK were also counselled for a mental health and wellbeing issue, including low self-esteem, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and depression.

The comments posted on their social media profiles, blogs and online pictures ranged from bullying and abusive words about how a young person looked to death threats and, in the most extreme cases, directly telling them to go and kill themselves.

'Trigger for depression'

Matt Forde, national head of service for NSPCC Scotland, said: "Online bullying is one of the biggest child protection challenges of this generation.

"It is a problem intensified by the ever-increasing presence of the internet.

"Years ago a child could escape their bullies when they left the playground and get some respite in the safety of their home. Now the 24/7 nature of the internet means that a child can be targeted around the clock.

"Bullying, regardless of whether it occurs online or in person, can have a devastating impact on a young person, affecting their self-worth, leave them feeling isolated and potentially being a trigger for depression.

"In the worst-case scenarios, bullying has driven children and young people to self-harm and even suicide."

In nearly a third (31%) of counselling sessions for online bullying, children and young people talked about a gaming or social networking site as the platform for their abuse and humiliation.

The NSPCC, which is currently working with the Royal Foundation Cyber-bullying Taskforce to develop new tools for children and young people, has also created a dedicated area about online bullying for the Childline website.

On the site, young people can share their experiences and offer support to their peers through message boards.

Last year there were more than 11,000 posts about online bullying.

Childline president Dame Esther Rantzen said: "Bullying can wreck young people's lives, especially now that the bullies don't stop at the school gates.

"It is imperative that adults, parents and teachers intervene to protect them, because we have learned over the years from Childline callers that bullying does not stop on its own, left alone it gets worse."

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