A multi-award winning West Clare lifestyle blogger has expressed concern about a rise in cyberbullying which he believes is due to the increased online activity during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Patrick Mungovan said: “Cyberbullying is a big problem but we need to be more aware of what to look out for and to make sure we keep each other safe online. People have been spending more time at home in the last year and a lot more time online. Cyberbullying is a form of bullying where a person causes harm to others using digital devices such as phone, computer, or tablet.”
“I have seen bullying taking place a lot on TikTok in more recent times. It is a social media platform that can be very easy to gain a lot of views in such a short space of time using the correct hashtags and therefore will be seen by a lot more people and cause more harm in a short space of time. I used TikTok for a few months but decided to deactivate my account, it is a crazy place where you only know people by a username and the abuse is just horrific.
The majority of cyberbullying takes place on social media sites but can also take place on gaming platforms, and messaging platforms to name a few. The big problem with cyberbullying is how easy it is to remain anonymous. People can create multiple social media accounts using fake names and details, giving them the freedom to attack other users without knowing the real identity,” Patrick said.
He continued: “As someone who has used social media a lot in the last few years, I can fully understand this problem. I often receive 3 or 4 abusive messages per week, sometimes more, with the majority on Instagram and usually coming from fake accounts with fake name and no followers. It can be hard to read the messages but you get to a stage where they are just deleted instead of opened, it’s easier not to read them at all. I find it hard seeing horrible messages from fake accounts as you never know the real identity of the person which is sad because I don’t think they would have the same confidence to say the same thing face to face.”
“Luckily I am able to receive the messages and delete them without worrying too much about it. I feel sorry for the more vulnerable or teenagers who might not be as strong minded when seeing such abuse. It must be very difficult for a teenager sitting in their bedroom to be reading horrible abusive messages and comments made towards them. It can leave someone scared, depressed, or made to feel like they have no one to turn to. That’s the big problem with cyberbullying, it affects everyone in different ways and it is important to speak out to someone if you ever experience any form of bullying, whether it is online or not.
Common forms of cyberbullying include abusing a person by comment of private message, posting embarrassing photos or videos, or the intention to humiliate or threaten someone. I have seen a huge rise in cyberbullying in recent times on social media platforms, it can be such a safe space for people to chat and interact with friends and family, but also a very dangerous place for others who might not be able to deal with the pressure of it.
I think that all schools should teach classes to the children regarding bullying and especially cyber bullying as the digital age is taking over and more and more things are online nowadays. This is a very important subject, the children need to know that their online actions will have consequences and the earlier this is taught the better. It is also important that parents have an understanding of how dangerous this can be and so that they know how to support their children in the case that they fall victim to online bullying. It is a worry to see children/teenagers online who are receiving such abuse, it is not good for mental health, it can have a huge downward affect on someone.
I have mentioned bullying a lot and in particular cyber bullying on my social media accounts and I have often received messages from younger people or parents thanking me for showing awareness and how much it has helped them. Bullying is not ok in any form and the more awareness that is spread about it, the better! It is very important to make sure that you speak up if you are being bullied, speak to a teacher, parent, a friend, anyone! There are many online courses available for parents or children to be more informed and learn how to be more safe when using the internet,” Patrick concluded.