More than a million British youngsters being bullied online every day

Charity behind survey calls for thorough regulation of social network sites

More than a million young people are subjected to extreme online bullying every day in Britain, according to the biggest survey of internet abuse.

The explosion of social networking sites means seven out of 10 13-22 year-olds have now been cyber-bullied, a survey by the national anti-bullying charity Ditch The Label has found.

The growing problem now affects an estimated 5.43 million young people, with girls and boys equally likely to be targeted. Facebook was the most common place for it to occur, with young people twice as likely to be bullied there than on any other social network. More than half of its users said they had been victimised on the site at some point, compared to 28 per cent of Twitter users and 26 per cent of those on Ask.fm.

More than 10,000 young people were asked about their experiences of abuse over the internet and asked to rate its severity. One in five said they experienced bullying every day at a level which they rated eight or more out of 10.

Liam Hackett, who founded the anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label after being a victim of bullying himself, said: “Historically bullying went on in the classroom and it stopped when you got home, but now there’s no escape for young people.”

He added: “Cyber-bullying is seriously damaging the self-esteem and the future prospects of young people and is an issue we cannot afford to overlook. Social networks have a moral obligation and a duty of care to their users to implement tight mechanisms of flagging and reporting systems for cyber bullying, although we all have a responsibility and an opportunity to help fix this.”

The results follow the deaths of two teenagers over the summer who were bullied over the internet. Hannah Smith, a 14-year-old schoolgirl who was found hanged at her home in Lutterworth, Leicestershire, after apparently suffering months of internet abuse on social network Ask.fm.

Daniel Perry, 17, from Dunfermline, Fife, killed himself after footage recorded on Skype was used to blackmail him. Helen Goodman, shadow minister for Culture, Media and Sport, with a responsibility for media reform, said: “Cyber-bullying is a horrible new problem facing some of our teenagers. It is vital that adults, including companies and the Government, take responsibility for making sites safe.

She added: “We have repeatedly called on the Government to introduce legislation to deal with this epidemic of cyber-bullying, but David Cameron is failing to stand up to the internet giants. Over a million young people in the UK face extreme cyber-bullying each day and in recent weeks we have seen the tragic deaths of two young people as a result. How can there be a stronger call to action than that?”

Ditch The Label believes the Government needs to make social networks more thoroughly regulated to protect young people from further abuse.

Mr Hackett said: “There needs to be greater governance of social networks. Especially with the likes of Facebook and Twitter, we feel there should be greater legal obligation to do an annual external audit which would tell us how much abuse had been reported and what the response had been.” More than two thirds of those who completed the survey, which was circulated on the teenage social network website Habbo Hotel, were British. Of the rest, 4 per cent were Australian, 12 per cent were from the USA, and a small number were from elsewhere. The results give an indication of the global scale of the problem. Ian Rivers, a psychologist and professor of human development at Brunel University, said that better education was needed to deal with the problem. “If so many young people are experiencing this then there must be a degree of reciprocation. I think we need to teach ‘netiquette’ in schools because learning how to communicate  with each other properly is a really important way to prevent bullying.”

The children’s counselling service ChildLine is appealing for more volunteers to help work on its online support team as it struggled to cope with the demand from distressed young people on the internet. Some 59 per cent of contacts from children are now online – rather than on the original phone line – and the charity says it needs more volunteers to man computers.

ChildLine carried out 4,507 counselling sessions with children and young people who were concerned about cyber-bullying in the year to 2013, an increase of 87 per cent in a year. The Government updated its bullying guidance to schools in July, so that teachers can have specific powers to confiscate mobile phones or other devices that might be used in cyber bullying.

Responding to the research, Facebook pointed out that all its users have access to reporting tools they can use to block others and report things that make them uncomfortable.

A spokesman for the website said: “We don’t tolerate bullying on Facebook and that’s why we provide the best tools and support in the industry for people to report bullying to us or to someone else who can help them.”

A Government spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has called for responsible behaviour from website owners. The Government expects all social media to have simple mechanisms for reporting abuse, to take actions promptly when abuse is reported and to make it easier for users to turn off anonymous posts.

“Through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, the Government is challenging social networking sites to improve their reporting procedures and safety features.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “The best people to help schools deal with bullying are the experts – that is why we have given almost £3m to Beatbullying, the Diana Award, Kidscape and the National Children’s Bureau to provide state-of-the-art anti-bullying – including cyber bullying – materials and support for schools.”

Case study: ‘The bullying made me extremely depressed. I tried to take my life’

Becky Owen, 22, from Honiton, Devon, was cyber-bullied as a teenager

I was around 14 when it started. I joined Bebo and I put up a picture of myself at a relative’s party. I thought ‘Oh I look nice in that, I’ll share it with friends’. A girl from school commented underneath and said ‘You look really ugly, you skanky bitch’. I didn’t realise I hadn’t adjusted the privacy setting and people from school who already bullied me started sending me messages saying I was a ‘dirty skank lesbian’ who needed to sort my life out.

“I was too scared of them to say anything, but I changed my privacy settings. That didn’t stop them though. Instead, they created fake profiles and added me on the site. I didn’t have many friends so I thought it would be nice to have a few new ones to talk to, but then it would turn out to be them.

“I was insecure about my sexuality and came out to someone I thought was my friend, but she told the girls who were bullying me and then they did it more. I told my head of year and the ringleader was suspended, but in the end I had to leave the school because the other girls were still being mean.

“It made me extremely depressed. I self-harmed and I attempted to take my life a couple of times. I still struggle with depression and now when I get a Facebook message, I still have a fear that it will be horrid. I’ve moved around the country a lot because since those bullying days I find it really hard to settle and trust people.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant needed for long term assignment

£45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experienc...

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain