Devon

Teenager relives internet bullying

Jade Sarwar
Image caption Jade Sarwar was a victim of "trolling", or abuse over the internet

Teenager Jade Sarwar knows the cruel reality of cyber bullying.

She was subjected to racist cyber-bullying following a physical attack just more than 12 months ago outside a supermarket in Newton Abbot, Devon.

"It took me a while to get over it," said Jade, 17.

"But it was really horrible at the time.

"I got home that night and it was all over Facebook."

She added: "I showed my mum and started crying."

Jade said comments being posted about her on Facebook included "she is dirty" and "she doesn't wash".

"Lots of people got involved, there were 19 pages of it," said Jade.

She went to the police and five teenage girls were arrested.

'Really nervous'

The teenagers who posted the abuse ended up in court charged with posting offensive messages.

Magistrates said they were deeply concerned by the cyber-bullying and gave referral orders to the five girls responsible.

"Trolling", the posting of insults, provocations or threats on the internet, is a phenomenon that has swept across websites in recent years.

One of the first high-profile cases emerged in the US state of Missouri in 2006, when a 13-year-old girl killed herself after being bullied online.

At least two people have been jailed in the UK for so-called trolling.

Jade said: "At first I was really nervous about going to the police.

"I thought it was going to make it worse, but going to the police made it a lot better.

"They dealt with it straight away and did a really good job."

'Easy way'

Cyber bullying and its impact on young people in particular, has led to internet safety workshops being set up across Devon.

Dawn Dines, who runs the social enterprise group SOS Global at the University of Exeter, said: "Cyber bullying is such an easy way to target somebody.

"It's not like in the old days when it would be face-to-face in the playground or the classroom."

Tuesday marks the 2012 Safer Internet Day, an annual event designed to encourage people to use internet technology, including mobile devices, more responsibly.

This year it coincides with the week-long BBC Share Take Care campaign, in partnership with the UK Safer Internet Centre, which is being featured across BBC television, radio and websites to raise awareness of issues surrounding safeguarding reputation online.

Anti-bullying charity Kidscape has produced a leaflet with Symantec with advice for parents and children on how to avoid bullying online.

Digizen.org has also produced advice, including keeping a copy of any bullying messages and making sure children never retaliate back to the bully.

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