Young people need to be wary of social media dangers during 2015

Dr Arthur Cassidy
Dr Arthur Cassidy

During 2014 we have seen an increase in demand for help from churches, youth organisations, school teachers and school principals to assist them in cyberbullying and internet trolls education.

Yellow Ribbon has three University of Ulster psychology placement students working as part of the team developing cyberbullying education and training besides being actively engaged in identity research led by myself (Dr Arthur Cassidy) in association with Emeritus Professor Peter Weinreich from the University of Ulster.

Identity research helps both the researchers and individual clients and patients to understand the source of their anxieties, loneliness and suicidal or clinical depression, internet threats by anonymous trolls, and this latest cutting edge research methodology facilitates our understanding as to how we can protect life and increase positive health and well-being.

Our latest development in 2014 and in 2015 has been to become much more involved locally and nationally as a lobbying group to focus attention on Government initiatives concerning the perpetual threats of internet trolls to our young people. Mr David Simpson MP has already made representation on our behalf in several House of Commons debates on social media and its negative effects on teenagers’ personal identities which in many cases leads to self-harming and suicidal behaviours. We will continue to lobby both our local Minister for Health and also Westminister Health Committees to bring around imperative changes in current legislation on dealing with those such as internet trolls who cause much psychological damage to developing minds of our college students. We must ban anonymity on all forms of social media and expose those who deliberately harm children and teenagers with internet threats and behaviour.

Yellow Ribbon also will be organising workshops and seminars throughout this New Year to assist parents understand and deal with the psychological effects of social media on their children and older teenagers. We are currently working with PSNI in relation to our training, and a leading mobile phone brand to facilitate social media education throughout all our schools. We would ask any school or college principals to please contact us in January or February to book a workshop session for either staff or pupils.

Advice for 
young people

If you think the person you are chatting to online is not who they say they are, take screen shots and record the date and time in a little diary. Tell your teacher parents or school principal.

If someone online tries to make you believe that you are bad or ugly or asks you to cut your body , save the evidence, don’t do it and tell your parents immediately.

If they are trolling, simple block them and inform the site moderator. If it’s a serious threat save the evidence and ask parents to inform PSNI.

record everything you find suspicious

Remember that, by law, you are a child until the day of your 18th birthday. Never give in to boyfriends who ask you to pose provocatively for them, and never send a photo to anyone on social media that you would not send to your parents. Instagram and Snapchat besides Facebook are constantly abused by teenagers who send photos to boyfriends under pressure by them. If they receive and transmit your photo in provocative dress or undress, they could be breaking the law and this would be a criminal offence.

Yellow Ribbon has a 24 hour helpline: 079 9903 0220 to help you deal with any of these issues or drop in with school friends or parents for help.

We will ring you back immediately.

Advice for Parents

Take every opportunity we offer to help you understand the psychological aspects of online threats to your children and teenagers.

We can teach you techniques to recognise and deal with online trolls and fake identities. Would you know how to detect a fake identity who could well be an online predator?

Our Cyberbullying Unit will support you and help you understand ways to have your children safeguarded whilst online. If a relationship breaks up and you feel that your ex-boyfriend has used your photos online in a psychologically destructive manner on a revenge porn site, do get in touch and we will teach you ways of dealing with this latest phenomena. This has led to self-harming in young adults and with some making suicidal attempts to deal with the embarrassment.. In conclusion, we are dealing with those whose spending behaviour is out of line at the moment with little funds left to pay huge interest rates on credit cards before Christmas.

We advise you to use a debit card where necessary and monitor your account daily. Only keep one credit card to protect yourself if buying holiday. Otherwise lock it away safely and use it one or twice a year.

Don’t become an impulsive spender by buying something just for the sake of having it. Psychologically, ask yourself if you really do need the item? Most clients we deal with do not need it and simply never think of their bank balance dwindling. Best to save for something as it teaches you self control and self regulation.

Try to budget together and make decisions based on needs rather than wants. In conclusion never give in to living beyond your means.. it’s difficult to deal with the depression and anxiety that accompanies it.