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Vodafone Cyberbullying

This week is anti-bullying week, which aims to empower children and young people to make a noise about bullying – whether it is happening to them or to someone else, face to face or online.

To highlight the everyday struggle some people have with bullying we’ve brought a host of different experts together in one room to talk all things cyber-bullying, our #BeStrong campaign, helpful emojis and online self-esteem.

“The consequences of online bullying are immense”

While there may have been people from many different walks of life and different ages sitting around our discussion table, it was clear that everyone in attendance was there in pursuit of the same goals: to educate young people and their families about the risks of cyber bullying; to think about how we can galvanise the victims rather than naming and shaming the bullies, and to turn the tide of online commentary from negative to positive.

Tessy Ojo, CEO of the Diana Award, anti-bullying ambassador Monica Lewinsky, superstar blogger Em Ford, Only the Young band member Parisa Tarjomani and Vodafone representative, Lisa Felton were just some of the voices discussing the topics on the table, and they were all in agreement: things need to change.

geofilter“In early September we polled thousands of kids about what they thought about going back to school,” said Tessy, “and one in two were worried about being bullied. A quarter of kids felt unsafe going back to school.

“Lots of bullying starts offline, but because lots of young people live and breathe technology, things always end up online. And then the audience is much bigger – it can feel like one against a million.”

“There’s no border for embarrassment online,” Monica added. “You feel like the whole world is laughing at you.” And Em, who has been through online bullying herself, agreed: “I always ask for people’s input, and when I recently asked people for their thoughts on the subject I had 2,000 responses saying that they thought cyber-bullying is getting worse.”

“At Vodafone we conducted a survey of 11,000 teens across Europe, and it showed that one in five had been cyber-bullied,” said Lisa.

“It impacts on their lives and education, but also – because of the risk of self-harm – their future. So the consequences of online bullying are immense.”

That may paint a fairly bleak picture, but all is far from lost. With initiatives like the Diana Award and our #BeStrong emojis offering support, guidance and help, we’re already on our way to changing how people think about their online actions.

‘A virtual hug’

Our #BeStrong emojis have been specially designed with the help of Monica, Professor Dacher Keltner (who is the psychologist behind Pixar’s Inside Out) and The Diana Award to show people that they’re not alone, and to help others show their support at times when it’s difficult to find the right thing to say.

example filter“Everyone needs a support network,” said Tessy. “Everyone needs someone to speak to if you’re going through this stuff.”

And so that’s exactly what we’ve tried to help with…

“It’s really hard to stand up to people when it comes to bullying,” said Lisa. “Research shows that reporting bullying only tends to increase it, and that peer-to-peer support is much more effective. But 43% find it hard to find the right words, and lots of people find an image a really good way to say what they want to say.”

All this comes as Oxford Dictionaries names the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ emoji as word of the year. Experts at Oxford Dictionaries said the symbol “embodies a core aspect of living in a digital world that is visually driven, emotionally expressive, and obsessively immediate”. And that’s exactly what the #BeStrong emojis are for – to show support when more than words are needed – like a message of support to a bullied friend, or a handshake to bridge digital divides.

“An emoji is fast,” Monica added. “You don’t have to labour over your message of solidarity and support. It’s an instant way of sending or getting a virtual hug. And the Snapchat side of this project is only going to help people get into that habit – the faster we can help people who are going through something right now, the better. Only then can we can look to address more long term goals.”

#BeStrong on Social Media

For the rest of Anti-Bullying Week, there are a number of ways we’re encouraging people to show their support for the victims of cyberbullying.

First up are the new #BeStrong Geofilter overlays for Snapchat that can be accessed in numerous European countries. We want to encourage all Snapchatters out there to take a stand against bullying by sharing photo overlays featuring the #BeStrong emojis. The Geofilters will be available to the millions of UK ‘Snapchatters’ until Sunday 22 November.

emojis 2

As well as Snapchat, from 18 November until 23.59 on 22 November we’ll be donating £1 to the Diana Award Foundation – a charity that helps victims of bullying – for every person that shares our #BeStrong emoji Facebook post or Tweet, until we hit our £100,000 target

And that money will go a long way to help young people who’ve felt the brunt of bullying go on to do great things. You can find out more about where that money will go here.

#BeStrong with us… You can find out loads more about the science behind our pioneering #BeStrong emoji campaign here. For more on cyber-bullying, click here.