Walker urges Worcester residents to #BeCyberSmart at launch of West Mercia Police cyber bullying and online harassment campaign

Worcester MP Robin Walker has given his backing to a new campaign launched today (16th October) by West Mercia Police to raise awareness of internet-related crime and to give people the knowledge they need to stay safe online.

With the strapline ‘The Virtual World Has Real Life Consequences’, the #BeCyberSmart campaign encourages people to think about how they behave on the internet and raises awareness of what they can do to protect themselves against online crime.

From 16-20 October 2017, West Mercia Police is working with a number of charities, schools, caring professionals, and other partners to share information on what constitutes online bullying and harassment, why they are serious – and sometimes criminal – issues, and how to tackle them.

The campaign will be encouraging young people to remember five SMART steps to protect themselves and others against harassment online. These are:

  • Screenshot any offensive or harassing messages.
  • Make sure your privacy settings are set so only people you know and trust can see your posts.
  • Avoid further communication with or retaliation to those sending the messages.
  • Report the incident(s) to the internet service provider and/or social media sites.
  • Talk to a parent, teacher, carer or friend if you are concerned, or contact victim support.

The #BeCyberSmart campaign is also encouraging people to think about their own behaviour online, raising wider awareness of what constitutes bullying and harassment via digital technology and encouraging social media users to call out and stand up to inappropriate behaviour online. There is also advice available to parents on how to keep their kids safe online.

As part of the campaign, West Mercia Police have released a new interview with Worcester resident Lucy Alexander, whose son Felix tragically took his own life in 2016 after being bullied online. There is also support from local mum, actress and model Elizabeth Hurley who is helping to spread the message of the campaign on social media.

Speaking on the launch of the campaign, West Mercia Chief Superintendent Mark Travis said:

“The effects of cyberbullying and online harassment can range from personal embarrassment to depression, anxiety and self-harm.”

“They are serious concerns for us as a police force, as well as anybody involved in the care of young people. We have listened to young people, to the voluntary sector and to subject matter experts – together, they’ve told us that online bullying is one of the biggest issues they now face.”

“Together, we must try to prick the consciences of bullies and make them aware that their actions can have serious consequences. We must also make information and support as widely available as possible so that people experiencing or witnessing bullying know where to turn for help.”

Giving his support to the campaign this week, Robin Walker said:

“I fully support this initiative by West Mercia Police who, in conjunction with a variety of partners, are helping to raise awareness of this issue and provide effective support to those who have been victims of, or witnesses to, harassment and bullying online.”

“If anybody still doubted how damaging an effect online harassment can have on young lives, the tragic deaths of two young men in Worcester in recent years should have served as a wake-up call. It’s vitally important that our children and young people know not to suffer in silence, know what steps to take to report incidents, and know that their concerns will be taken seriously by those in positions of responsibility.”

“Last year the Department for Education and the Government Equalities Office announced £4.4million of funding for 10 projects to tackle bullying, including a £3million initiative to ensure children are free from being bullied for their sexual orientation or gender identity. This academic year over 1,000 schools are launching projects to stamp out homophobic bullying in the classroom.”

“Alongside proactive initiatives such as this new campaign from West Mercia Police, the Government is committed to ensuring that not only are our schools safe, inclusive environments where pupils are able to learn and fulfil their potential, but that the online spaces our children spend time in are free from abuse and harassment.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

For more information on the #BeCyberSmart campaign, see https://www.westmercia.police.uk/becybersmart

For advice and guidance on cyberbullying for parents and carers from the Department for Education, please see https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/444865/Advice_for_parents_on_cyberbullying.pdf

To read West Mercia Police’s cyberbullying advice for young people, see https://www.westmercia.police.uk/media/13679/Cyberbulling-and-online-harassment—Young-Person-leaflet/pdf/Cyberbullying_advice_sheet_for_young_people_WEST_MERCIA_final.pdf