By Lara Salomon
It used to be that bullying was a personal thing. You would know exactly who it was that was bullying you, and they, in turn, would know who it was that they were bullying. I remember the good old days of running home with someone following close behind trying to shock me (quite literally) or insults being thrown at me across the hall. And those really were the good old days. These days, you rarely know your bully.
With the internet growing bigger every day, it is a lot easier to voice your opinion on anything and everything that you find, and you can even do it completely anonymously. And while this power can be used for good, a lot of people use it for evil. Some people call them trolls, but having been the victim of bullying, I recognise a bully when I see one. There is a huge difference between offering constructive criticism and trying to put a person down, and a lot of the comments out there serve no other purpose than to cause others pain and humiliation.
Cyber bullying is a cause that has struck the hearts of many as people have been realising just how easy it is for bullies to gain access to a computer and wreak havoc. In 2011, research in the US found that almost half of all American teens are affected by cyber bullying, and the majority of those who were bullied had no idea who the perpetrators were. With suicide rates in teenagers steadily rising due to bullying in general (not just cyber), campaigns have been on the rise in the US and across Europe to put a stop to the problem. Legislation to prevent cyberbullying has even also been introduced in a number of States in the US, and it’s not just the government clamping down.
Riot Games have taken a strong stance on bullying and harassment in League of Legends, a popular, free, multiplayer online game. It is common for players of the game to be told that they are noobs (newbies, insinuating that they don’t know what they are doing), mocked, ridiculed, criticised and generally harassed by other players who feel that they either know better or are more experienced. Often the comments go beyond the game itself and become racist, sexist or homophobic. Having introduced a method for reporting players for verbal abuse, Riot Games have recently gone a step further in the prevention of such bullying by issuing bans for players who continually receive negative reports. Over the last two months, four professional gamers have been banned for verbal abuse and bad sportsmanship. The Escapist quotes Dustin Beck, the vice president of eSports at Riot, as explaining: “We take sportsmanship and player behavior very seriously, and we fundamentally believe that pro players should not be exempt from scrutiny over their behaviour.”
It is certainly a step in the right direction, as it goes to show that bullying will not be tolerated, even in the big leagues so to speak. And they are not alone in showing their support for victims of bullying. The It Gets Better Project, aimed at providing support for LGBT teenagers who have been targets of harassment, has a collection of YouTube videos of support from a range of sources – from fellow teens, parents, family, friends and other victims, to celebrities like Neil Patrick Harris and even President Barack Obama.
So, to those trolls, those bullies, I would like to suggest that while it is all too easy to get pulled into the web of anonymity and say whatever is on your mind, perhaps you should take a moment to think of what it is that we are saying and how it is affecting those around you. After all, one person’s criticism is another’s dynamite. And to those victims of bullying and harassment, you are not alone. It DOES get better.
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