delve a little deeper....
"But if you do not heed me and do not keep all these commandments, if you reject my precepts and spurn my decrees, refusing to obey all my commandments and breaking my covenant, then I, in turn, will give you your deserts. I will punish you with terrible woes--with wasting and fever to dim the eyes and sap the life. You will sow your seed in vain, for your enemies will consume the crop.
I will turn against you, till you are beaten down before your enemies and lorded over by your foes. You will take to flight though no one pursues you.
Bullying has always been around and can be found in any area of the globe or period in history you might choose from. There are individuals and groups that target others with tactics designed to intimidate, coerce or harm them. In some cases bullying is used to maintain social order and ensure that no one acquires too much dominance, status or personal power.
According to psychological sources, bullying is a specific type of aggression in which (1) the behavior is intended to harm or disturb, (2) the behavior occurs repeatedly over time, and (3) there is an imbalance of power, with a more powerful person or group attacking a less powerful one. This asymmetry of power may be physical or psychological, and the aggressive behavior may be verbal (eg, name-calling, threats), physical (eg, hitting), or psychological (eg, rumors, shunning/exclusion). The key elements of this definition are that multiple means can be employed by the bully or bullies, intimidation is the goal, and bullying can happen on a one-on-one or group basis (Nansel et al, 2001).
Even animals can pick on each other. Research has shown that among baboons from sub-Saharan Africa groups of related females work together to compete over resources and in doing so regularly gang up on individual females. (Altmann, 1980). It has been observed that some individual rats and mice will repeatedly attack others and steal their food.
The mice that suffered repeated social defeats were more anxious and experienced changes in brain chemistry (Kinsey et al, 2007).
It seems slightly ironic that a week after David Cameron told us that "online pornography is corroding childhood" that the press is now full of stories about internet bullying. Is this the real problem with the internet or has the internet just given us a new outlet for those who wish to intimidate or cause upset to others?
The death of 14 year old Hannah Smith this week who was relentlessly sent abuse via ask.fm has opened up yet another storm about how websites manage cyber bullying, abuse and trolling. Last week it was Twitter under pressure to change how it deals with bullying after campaigner and journalist Caroline Criado-Perez was put under what she described as 'a tidal wave of abuse' with rape and death threats. Threats were also made to MP Stella Creasy and Classicist Mary Beard.
Of course these are three well known people and what they received was a fraction of the abuse, bullying and harrassment found across the internet and poor Hannah Smith is one of many children across the world to have become suicidal over online bullying.
A man has been arrested over threats made to Criado-Perez, but of course the cynic in me wonders whether this was due to the fact she has a public profile (and even more cynically if because she is white, straight, middle class and nice looking).
However, today after the death of Hannah Smith pressure has been put on Ask.fm. Ask is a site that allows people to join and offer anyone who wants to ask questions anonymously- in that they don't have to sign in or provide an email address.
David Cameron has talked about irresponsible websites and asked people to boycott such sites if they don't 'clean up their act'. The Sun described ask.fm as a "suicide site" and said said the men behind ask.fm were "troll kings" on its front page. The irony of The Scum taking the moral high ground here is not lost on me. Several advertisers such as Vodafone, Specsavers, Save the Children and Laura Ashley have also moved to withdraw their adverts.
Following the pressure of Twitter to review their report policy and the frankly pointless 'TwitterSilence' on Sunday spurred on by Caitlin Moran to show some sort of protest (I never did quite get the point) it feels the blame for all ills of society is to be put onto the people who run websites.
Just because a car may run someone over the blame isn't put on car manufacturers? It's not down to them to ensure people either drive safely or not walk in front of a moving car. The onus has to be put on ensuring people drive safely, children are taught their Green cross code and harsh penalties for those who drive dangerously.
Ask.fm has around 8 million accounts and Formspring (a similar site) 29.5 million. Facebook has 1.11 BILLION users and Twitter 140 million users and sees 340 million tweets per day. Whilst all these accounts won't be used that is still a massive number of people to manage.
All these sites have processes to block, delete or report abuse and there are moderators who respond to this. Ask.fm have said they have a team of moderators present "around the clock - 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days per year" who manually check all content posted to its site.
Like with the porn issue, parent's need to know what their kids are doing online, children need to be educated. They need to know the consequences of bullying online, the law with regards to making threats and of course how to respond when someone threatens or taunts you. This kind of thing has to start happening now. The internet has grown so fast and changed our lives so quickly, almost too quickly to manage and all of a sudden we find ourselves with 24/7 access to almost anything you could possibly want (or not want) to view and a new, more underhand way to hurt, abuse, insult and goad others.
I find it hard to comprehend why anyone would return to their ask.fm site once bullying started. Of course I'm not critisising Hannah Smith or anyone else who continues to read hate hurled at them or tries to fight back, but a simple lesson in life is that bullies like a reaction- any reaction. Silence bores them. Responding angrily or trying to argue against a viewpoint feeds them. Indeed, you'll often read 'Do Not Feed The Troll!' posted on forums when someone is spilling their venom or posting ridiculous or controversial view points. I think they are right. Responding to someone who is out to cause trouble won't make them stop and think about what they have done or change their views (unless you happen to troll Mary Beard and someone knows their mother!).
I'm not saying everyone should keep quiet about this kind of behaviour. The Twitter Silence day was met with a ShoutBack day by those who felt that being silent was offensive to those who don't get their voices heard often enough, whether it be women, sex workers or trans* women and men. Many see Twitter as a platform where they can be open about their life and experiences and by shutting up plays into the hands of those who don't think certain groups should have a voice. I certainly can attest to that and I do think that whilst there is no point engaging with trolls or hateful people I do think if you have the clout or the support network in place you can make others see what you are subjected to.
Freedom of speech is important though. I can shout pretty loudly about sex work and why I am not more inferior to anyone else and I have a right to do that, and I can do it in a reasoned manner. The person who thinks I should get a proper job or am letting all women down has the same right to make their views heard as me. However, once that crosses the line into personal abuse I'm shutting up. There is no point if you can't have a reasoned debate or exchange of views.
This doesn't help much when it comes to children being bullied on social media though. The answer isn't to limit the internet or reduce the ability to remain anonymous (in sex work circles for example staying anonymous is of paramount).
It's a change in education, it's making sure children (and maybe even adults) know the consequences of bullying, teaching them to stay safe, how to report bullies and where to get support and yes, maybe even teaching them to walk away. I really do believe sometimes silence is the right response. Retaliation only fans the flames of many who bully and abuse online.
There isn't a simple answer though, but screaming at the website owners isn't it either.