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'I received death threats and constant torture': Cyberbullying victims speak out

Young people want more regulation in the area.

MEMBERS OF YOUTH initiative Future Voices recently met with the president and head commissioner of the Law Reform Commission to discuss the issue of cyberbullying.

Some of the young people have experienced cyberbullying and submitted a report to the commission – which is currently undertaking a project on cybercrime and cyberbullying – based on their own experiences.

Shutterstock-144042481 Source: Shutterstock

A spokesperson for Future Voices told TheJournal.ie the organisation thinks it is “extremely important that young people are at the heart of tackling this issue as it effects them in their everyday lives”.

Here, some of the young people share their own experiences of being bullied online:

Nathan McDonagh (17)

IMG_1152 Source: Future Voices

“I was bullied ‘traditionally’ for six years. I was beaten, called names and excluded. It was a day in and day out struggle but, at evenings and weekends, I was able to escape the torment.

“Unfortunately with the advent of social media, it gave the perpetrators a new platform to attack me. This was in the first wave of these websites and it has only grown since. It gave them a 24/7 connection to me.

I received death threats, photoshopped pictures of myself and constant torture. I felt so alone and had very few people I felt I could trust. It had become so bad and hurtful that I had to leave my school. It was one of the worst, if not the worst, experiences of my life.

“These tools to connect and bring people together are being used to ostracise and make people feel like they aren’t equal and it’s time to put a stop to this. Too many young people have taken their own lives to escape the world of abuse. How many more must die before we have an adequate solution?”

David Hanney (18)

IMG_1149 Source: Future Voices

“I was very young when myself and my friends started on Facebook and other sources of social media. From these early days there was bullying happening. In my school, bullies were able to reach people they wouldn’t normally talk to and say horrible things that they would never say in person.

I have seen people make fun of people’s relatives, dead or alive. People bullied each other over their choices of girls, friends and lifestyle. I have friends who were threatened online by anonymous people and because of these threats they stopped leaving there house and stopped behaving like the friends that I knew.

“I have witnessed cyberbullying in its full effect. Luckily I have never been cyberbullied, but I know those who have. I know how they felt and feel over this issue. I feel that there is no protection at the moment which is most worrying. It is hard to accept that my younger brother and sister have no protection and are in danger.

“I feel that new legislation would be a big step in the right direction. I hope that speaking to the Law Reform Commission will mean that young people’s voices are heard on cyberbullying.”

Emma Irwin (17)

IMG_1150 Source: Future Voices

“The introduction of technology has made everyone’s life easier, unfortunately this includes bullies. Social media platforms, which allow people to connect with anyone from anywhere, mean there is no escaping their reach, unless something changes.

“Sure, you can block someone but there is a huge stigma around blocking people amongst young people and unfortunately there are always ways around it – with people creating fake pages and using friend’s profiles.

Everyone that I know can say they’ve seen cyberbullying happen. Pages set up with the sole purpose of slagging someone, sharing photos without permission, demeaning comments under someone’s status and the setting of someone else’s profile as yours.

“I’m lucky, I’ve never personally experienced this but I’ve still seen it happen to several of my friends. What I have experienced is less obvious but still not nice: the deliberate snubbing that is only noticeable to those that know what has happened, statuses with the hidden meanings that you’re no longer part of that group, that you’re no longer welcome.

“But there’s also the private messages and group chats, that people can repeatedly add you back into even if you leave. There is so much that can happen online and there are no boundaries or rules.”

Dean Perth Brennan (16)

IMG_1151 Source: Future Voices

From a young age I have been bullied in school and on the streets – and everywhere in between, anywhere I went someone would put me down. I managed to learn how to block this out and would always take it in my stride until social media came along, it is a lot harder to block out a status or a comment about you when it is constantly there. At least in person words only last a few seconds.

“I’m happy I wasn’t affected too much by cyberbullying, but I know people for whom it became a major problem and affected them day to day. In one case it caused someone I know to take their own life.”

IMG_1162 Nathan McDonagh; Dean Perth Brennan; Legal Researcher Fiona O'Regan; Emma Irwin; President of the Law Reform Commission Justice John Quirke; Director of Research Raymond Byrne; and David Hanney. Source: Future Voices

Mairead Healy, CEO of Future Voices Ireland, said young people “need to be listened to when it comes to cyberbullying”.

She said the meeting with the Law Reform Commission was “a fantastic opportunity for our young people to engage with policy makers on a topic that deeply effects them”.

The young people of Future Voices are so passionate about this topic because it is wreaking havoc on their generation. It is important that we see the impact that cyberbullying is having on our young people and that we take action now before it is too late.

The Law Reform Commission said engaging with Future Voices on this issue is a particularly valuable as “young people have an important insight in this area” because they “have been victims of such behaviour or know of others who have been victimised”.

The Commission is currently developing recommendations on cyberbullying and related behaviour.

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