(BBC School News Report) Dark ages of online bullying

(Reported by Santa Popkess, Year 8)

In recent history there have been multiple examples of movements designed to help the human race work and live cohesively with one another – movements that activists such as Martin Luther King Jr., Aung San Suu Kyi, Mahatma Ghandi, Rosa Parks, Nina Simone, Susan B. Anthony and Bayard Rustin have worked hard to develop. As a race, we’ve come extremely far with regards to ensuring everyone is given appropriate rights and we are fair in the treatment of others. Humans are advancing by protecting those who are more vulnerable or susceptible to unfair treatment and discrimination. In Britain, we’ve put an end to child labour, created and refined laws to sanction anyone who discriminates against another, embraced people who are of the LGBT+ community and persevered to achieve the right for women to vote.

Yet in a world where so much is being done to establish peace between individuals, why is it that there is such a vast contingency of hatred online?

The NSPCC state that 25% of teenagers from minority ethnic backgrounds experience cyberbullying. Another survey revealed that one in four teenagers suffered from hate incidents last year. The 13- to 18-year-olds that were asked these questions, found that 24% had been targeted due to their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability or transgender identity. One in 25 said they were singled out for abuse all or most of the time. This information provokes many questions, the most significant of which would be: why is it that teenagers are being targeted because of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability or transgender identity? And does this mean that many young people are secretive and insecure about these things for fear that they’ll then be on the receiving end of this hate? When put into perspective like this, it’s evident that trolling is fearmongering and destructive to the well-being of children.

Of those questioned, 41% said online hate had increased in the past year. The most common platform in which most young people witnessed such abuse was in fact social media. Sites like Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and many others are used by hundreds of millions of people every day. Combining the average amount of views they have per week of the YouTube channels with the highest number of subscribers, totals to billions of views.

A new psychology paper with research, conducted by Erin Buckles of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).

It revealed that trolling is not just undertaken by only a miniscule minority of internet users: 41.3% of people questioned said they didn’t engage online in comment sections where trolling often takes place at all. In fact, only 5.6% of respondents specified that they actually enjoyed trolling. However, 5.6% of 1 billion is 56,000,000 (aka 56 million) potential ‘trollers’ posting hate on the most subscribed YouTube channels videos per week.

The question is: why is this happening? What spawns so much desire to spread hate, often to people whom we don’t know? Complete strangers who could be going through horrific things in their own personal lives are being verbally attacked when going online or checking their social media accounts. Some have the quite harsh opinion that you should be prepared for whatever unpleasant comments or phrases will be thrown at you when logging on but that is far from what should be the case. No one should be told they must become used to receiving horrid comments and almost expect it because it simply should not happen. It’s not the fault of the victim if they are offended or affected by the comment in a negative way for it should not be an expectation to be able to brush off something as hurtful as what many internet users are witnessing every day. Should this even have gotten to the stage where large social media companies like Twitter have to announce that they’re developing more changes to their application and networking site to limit the amount of abuse there is being shared on it?

The internet should be a safe place to learn, socialize and share with others around the world, not a place where children are groomed and people are being bullied.