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Social media firms must do more to tackle cyber-bulling, charities warn

Elle Trowbridge

SOCIAL media companies are failing to tackle cyber-bullying with a new report revealing "nasty" online comments are placing teenagers' mental health at risk.

Cyber-bullying takes a number of forms - including mass "unfollowings", sharing of embarrassing photos and threatening, intimidating messages, the charity study found.

A survey of 1,089 respondents aged 11 to 25 found almost one in 10 admitted logging on after midnight every night, with one young person describing social media as being "almost like a drug".

A 15-year-old-girl surveyed said: "You kind of expect to experience it: nasty comments on the selfie, Facebook posts and Twitter posts, people screen-grabbing your Snapchat story to laugh about it ... I feel like it's something people don't take seriously."

The findings come after a Co Tyrone mother who lost her teenage daughter to suicide as a result of cyber-bullying spoke of how she is now delivering counselling sessions in schools

Elle Trowbridge, an award-winning showjumper, was only 16 when she took her own life at the family home outside Omagh as a result of shocking online abuse by strangers.

Her mother, Mandy, has trained as a facilitator with the Hopeful Minds programme and takes a weekly class at Drumragh Integrated College where Elle was a pupil.

The new report, which was led by charities The Children's Society and YoungMinds as well as Conservative MP Alex Chalk, concluded that social media firms such as Facebook and Twitter had "failed to grip the true scale of the problem".

The report found:

- Three in five young people had a first social media account aged 12 or under

- More than a third of those polled reported that social media has a negative impact on how they feel about themselves, while less than a quarter said it has a positive effect

- Young people who gave evidence to the inquiry described feeling inadequate if they didn't have enough likes or followers

The paper said: "The evidence relating to the impact that cyber-bullying has on children's mental health and wellbeing is in its infancy - but we do know that there is emerging evidence that draws links between the two."

In evidence to the inquiry, Facebook said it has a "particular focus" on anti-bullying measures and takes extra precautions for teenagers.

Snapchat said any content found to violate its guidelines is removed and may lead to the termination of an account.

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