Today, Vodafone has launched #BeStrong, a major campaign against cyber-bullying. On one of the videos that we created as part of that there is a halting moment when one teenager spoke about the pain of receiving bullying messages about his sexuality and how helpful it would have been to have support from friends. That should not happen in this day and age.
We commissioned research from 5,000 teenagers across 11 countries, one in five of whom revealed that they had been cyberbullied. Over half found that experience worse than face-to-face bullying.
Cyber-bullying had caused those young people to feel depressed, completely alone, in some cases even suicidal, and often too ashamed to tell their parents. Nearly one quarter had avoided school or closed down social media accounts.
Cyberbullying is different to traditional bullying. It can occur anytime, anywhere, through smartphones.
One act of cyberbullying has the potential to cause repeated victimisation as others spread the comment via social networks.
Anonymity also intensifies bullying, by providing a low risk route for bullies to attack. In one study it was reported that almost half of the victims did not know who cyberbullied them.1
This is where #BeStrong comes in. Vodafone wants to help young people be strong online and have the emotional and technical tools to cope with difficult situations.
We want to raise awareness that both peer support and rejection are essential factors in any bullying situation. Strong support and friendships can serve as a real buffer against victimisation.
We also believe that there must be a way of helping the bystanders become upstanders.
As a result, we have created a set of emojis that will be shared via Vodafone social media channels. Anyone sharing them will show support and compassion for bullying sufferers. Further, for every retweet or public Facebook ‘like’ of the Vodafone image, the Vodafone Foundation will give a donation to anti-bullying NGOss around the world.
#BeStrong campaign against cyber-bullying
Vodafone commissioned research from 5,000 teenagers across 11 countries, one in five of whom revealed that they had been cyberbullied.
of teens think cyberbullying is a bigger problem than drug abuse.
The amazing part of #BeStrong for me has been the support from strangers that has been shown to us along the way: colleagues within the company and in our agencies; Monica Lewinsky who bought the idea of a support emoji to Vodafone; Dacher Keltner, Director of the Greater Good Science Center, University of California, Berkeley who was a force for good throughout this project; Matt Jones, the film artist, who in his own time, and for no charge, created a wonderful set of images; Diana Award and Parentzone, who have created and tested the resources; and Enable, Facebook and Twitter who have committed to supporting the project and promoting the resources to their audiences. Their help has been immeasurable.
But probably the kindest strangers have been the young people who helped us create the videos for the learning resources. All of them had experienced bullying and consequently gone on to be anti-bullying ambassadors for the Diana Award. They gave up their time to courageously share their sometimes painful experiences.
The kindness of strangers has made this an incredible project, which I hope will have a huge impact in creating a kinder society. And somewhere along the way, all of these strangers became friends.
Please do share our support emojis and make them a universal way of saying no to bullying and yes to the upstanders. #BeStrong.
About the author:
Lisa Felton has been Group Head of Consumer Regulation and Content Standards at Vodafone for the past two years and has worked for the company since 2000. As part of her role Lisa leads on the Digital Parenting programme which includes a magazine, developed in partnership with parenting NGO The Parent Zone, that is distributed to one million parents. Lisa is also the Chair of the Family Online Safety Institute.
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