Posted: 02 March 2018

The impact of cyberbullying on young people

Ethan, a school teacher, wanted to share the story of a student in his class who fell victim to cyberbulling.

Sophie was 14 when I noticed her changing behaviour in class. She was losing interest in her studies and sat in the corner with her head mostly down. She stopped carrying her phone to class, and she seemed all of a sudden to be very distracted.

I’ve seen many children suffer at the hands of bullies and I knew that these were classic signs of worry in teenagers, that should not be ignored.

As always, it’s easier to ease the suffering of a young person if both the parents and teachers are involved in the solution. I didn’t know how share my suspicions to her parents over a phone call, so I paid a casual visit to Sophie’s house one day. After speaking to them, I began to understand that Sophie had been having problems with her peers who were making her life difficult.

Being 'different'

Sophie was diagnosed with myopia at the age of nine and she’s been wearing glasses ever since. It was fine until she was 13, and she didn’t feel any different, but all of a sudden some children made fun of her and it caught on with the others.

It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re tagged 'ugly'

She lost friends and was getting mocked for being different.

Bullying online

Her former friend started a hate group on Facebook using a fake name and the group attracted some 180 members. Sophie was getting tagged in ugly memes and receiving abusive messages to her phone and on Facebook. The children even threatened to share her private texts and spread rumours about her sexuality if she reported them.

These threats and the cyberbullying went on for five months before I intervened. When I sat down with Sophie and her parents we realised that the bullying had deeply affected Sophie’s mental health and she’d even tried to cut herself.

Putting a stop to cyberbullying

Sophie’s parents weren't aware of the problem at first. Like many other children, Sophie had kept it to herself out of fear and embarrassment.

It’s important to first make the victims believe that they aren’t alone and comfort them.

Young people get victimised because of their low self-confidence and inferiority complex. With Sophie, lack of support, continuing insults, and no “happening” social life ate up her confidence.

But we were lucky to get to the problem relatively quickly and do something about it. We decided to track down the real people behind the fake accounts, as I was also the teacher to these children, I made a call to their houses and spoke to their parents about their behaviour. I asked them to monitor their children’s internet activities. I also reported the group to Facebook and it all stopped. 

A life without bullying

It’s been 2 years now and Sophie is happy, confident, and brave. She’s been working on her self esteem and her studies ever since and is soon going to college.

Read more about our cyberbullying report


Read more

Inquiry: The impact of cyberbullying on social media on children and young people’s mental health

Posted: 1 March 2017