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I TALK Cyberbully

Channel 4's new one-off drama, Cyberbully tells the story of Casey Jacobs, a teenage girl who's battling with her anonymous cyber-stalker.

Casey is played by Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) and the drama is told in real-time and opens our eyes to the worst the web has to offer.

69% of young people in the UK have experienced some form of cyber bullying. In the most severe cases, victims can face webcam hacking, exploitation and ‘suicide trolling’. Anti-bullying campaigns urge teenagers to ‘walk away’ from online abuse, but for those caught in the grip of bullying, turning their backs on their tormentors is not easy.

The question in the trailer for Cyberbully is simple, "When you go online. Who can you trust?" and it really gets you thinking...

Just before Christmas I was invited along to the launch of Cyberbully, and speaking at the launch, Channel 4's Head of Documentaries Nick Mirsky revealed how Cyberbully was originally as an hour drama but after seeing the rushes he had to extend it to an hour and 15 minutes in order to tell the story properly.

Also at the launch was the star of Cyberbully, Maisie Williams, who told us that she "could completely relate" to Casey's story and "didn't find it patronising", in the same way other stories about the online world tend to be.

Bullying is a topic Maisie feels "very passionate about" having spoken out in the past about being bullied herself.

"Trolling is the biggest thing that anyone faces, and it’s easy to dismiss, but it does hurt. As much as we like to say we don’t care, of course we do. People laugh at me when I try to stop people from behaving like that. Just in my followers, not on the internet in general. But I don’t want that. I don’t want Twitter to be that sort of place. People laugh at that, saying “If you’re trying to teach manners on the internet, you’ve got another thing [sic] coming.”

One thing to make very clear, is that whilst Cyberbully isn't based on one person's story, Maisie Williams told us that "everything included is very much possible, or has happened to various different people." Pretty scary huh?

I know for me, it made me look at at all the various cameras in my life very differently; my computer, my laptop, my iPad, my iPhone. I was suddenly very aware that all these devices could be hacked into by the wrong person at the right time, and whilst what they'll see will be very boring it's still very possible, and the fact you could be completely oblivious to it all, is a thought that if I'm honest terrifies me.

What's really striking, is the way in which Cyberbully is told. It's told in real-time which adds to the intensity of the story being told. Hats off to Maisie Williams too who gives a fantastic performance in Cyberbully, because not only does she have to act in real-time, she's also the only character (apart from the very beginning of the drama) that we see on screen. We hear her dad, we see her friends' messages, we hear the computerised voice of the anonymous stalker but Casey is the only person we see.

Seeing this story play out solely through the eyes of Casey meant that when I watched it I was constantly thinking about what I would do if I was in her situation. How would I react? Would I tell anyone? Would I run? Would I let me dad in? Would I switch my laptop on... the list is endless.

Asked if there was one thing she wanted viewers to take away from Cyberbully, Maisie Williams said:

"Some people on the internet are never going to be satisfied with any reasoning. The answer is just to close your computer and walk away, because it doesn’t matter. Don’t try reasoning with the trolls or the bullies, don’t engage with them, just walk away. You can’t win, so just walk away, and find people who really care about you."

And if there's one thing I would like to say to people thinking about watching Cyberbully it's that cyber-bullying is a very important topic which needs to be told time and time again, and I strongly believe that it's told very well in Cyberbully, so regardless of age, everyone should watch this one-off drama.

Cyberbully airs Thursday 15th January at 9pm on Channel 4


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