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Hundreds of Scottish children called Childline last year about online bullying

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​Online bullying is biggest problem faced by this generation says Childline

Hundreds of Scottish children called Childline last year about online bullying with the helpline saying instances have soared across the UK.

Figures released to mark Anti-Bullying Week, which started today (Monday), show that the helpline run by children’s charity the NSPCC gave counselling to 201 Scots kids in 2015/16.

Across the UK it helped 4,541 youngsters, up a staggering 88% from 2011/12.

Children as young as seven told Childline they were being tormented and abused by malicious and hurtful messages from which they felt there was no escape.

Online bullying is one of the biggest child protections challenges of this generation

Comments posted on their social media profiles, blogs and online pictures ranged from abusive comments about image to death threats and in the most extreme cases directly telling them to go and kill themselves.

Online bullying is rapidly becoming the main type of bullying which children and young people get in touch with Childline about, the charity says.

Almost one in four calls overall made by Scots children regarding bullying revolved around online bullying.

“Online bullying is one of the biggest child protections challenges of this generation,” Matt Forde, national head of service for NSPCC Scotland said.

“It is a problem intensified by the ever-increasing presence of the internet.

“Years ago a child could escape their bullies when they left the playground and get some respite in the safety of their home, now the 24/7 nature of the internet means that a child can be targeted around the clock.

“Bullying, regardless of whether it occurs online or in person can have a devastating impact on a young person, affecting their self-worth, leave them feeling isolated and potentially being a trigger for depression.

“In the worst case scenarios, bullying has driven children and young people to self-harm and even suicide.”

The charity is now working to develop new tools and technology with the Royal Foundation Cyber-bullying Taskforce to help children and young people who are being bullied.

It has created a dedicated area about online bullying on its website where young people are able to share their experiences and offer support to their peers through message boards.

Last year alone there were more than 11,000 posts there about online bullying.

Dame Esther Rantzen, president and founder of Childline, said the report needs to act as a wake-up call.

“Bullying can wreck young people’s lives, especially now that the bullies don’t stop at the school gates,” she said.

“Cyber-bullying can follow them home until it becomes a persecution they cannot escape.

“It is imperative that adults, parents and teachers, intervene to protect them, because we have learned over the years from Childline callers that bullying does not stop on its own, left alone it gets worse.”