January 16, 2015

Cyberbully: a very real issue facing the social media generation


Channels 4’s one-off drama ‘Cyberbully’ touched on a very real issue facing the social media generation. What happens when your seemingly private digital property gets into the wrong hands? Within minutes of watching I’d triple checked my social media accounts were private and by the end of the show felt a strong desire to destroy anything I own with a camera on it.

As Casey, the star of the show’s computer is hacked anonymously we see the risk facing all of us over-sharing online. If you say a few bad words about someone in a message, the recipient then holds that information, stored on their device for them to use as they wish. What happens online, stays online.

The show has really made me question whether anything digital is ever personal anymore. Do I own the photo on my phone or can it be anyone’s at the click of a hack? Whilst this hacker had serious IT skills, it only took the possession of one incriminating photo to cause Casey to crumble, giving power to the bully.

So while all of that touches on the security of your information online and the need to really think before we digitalise a moment or feeling, the overriding point of it all was about bullies. Not your typical school ground bullies, but the new generation of bullies, the cyber bullies, or trolls as they are so fetchingly known.

One character, Jen, posted YouTube videos as a way of expressing herself and subsequently suffered at the hands of trolls that didn’t appreciate her talents. Casey proclaimed in the midst of her hacking attack that by putting herself out there so much and being so open in what she posted, Jen was ‘asking for it’. In domestic violence, abusive partners throw around that phrase claiming the other partner provoked them, or deserved it. It’s incorrect in physical violence and it’s incorrect in cyber bullying. Just because someone is willing to openly post something online, it does not mean they are inviting criticism or deserve to be attacked.

From watching the show, it’s obvious how quickly bullying can escalate. From thoughtlessly posting an anonymous negative comment in a YouTube video, even if “everyone does it”, you can unknowingly assist in something that spirals out of control with unintended consequences. Don’t give the people hiding behind a computer and screen name the opportunity to jump on board. As the saying goes, if you don’t have anything nice to say… well, you know the rest.

Casey didn’t stop to question what was happening in front of her. She played into the hands of the hacker and gave them the power to manipulate and bully her. The emotional rollercoaster that was ‘Cyberbully’ made its message loud and clear. If faced with a situation where a cyber bully is targeting you, remember Casey’s words, “what are you when I stop talking to you?” The answer is, “nothing”. So don’t respond, don’t give them the power and don’t be scared to seek help.

16.01.14, Robyn Lissimore, intern at Livity.

Check out Livity’s anti-sexting app ‘Zipit’ for NSPCC ChildLine here. The app contains useful advice on how to deal with a sexting crisis and is available to download for free.