Girl of 10 ‘on suicide watch’ over bullies on Instagram
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A venerable girl aged just ten collapsed in tears after falling victim to a cruel online poll asking whether she was ugly.
In a shocking example of the brutality of online behaviour, trolls set up the so-called survey after taking a photograph from Mia-Lili Bennett’s Instagram account.
When asked ‘Who thinks she ugly’, 53 % responded ‘Hell ya’.
Such callousness would be devastating for any child or adult, but Mia-Lili’s mother, Corrinia, 33, says it has left her daughter suicidal.
Bennett said Mia-Lili had previously endured such serious bullying that the family had to move house.
The mother said she and her husband, John, 42, had put Mia-Lili on suicide watch because the trolls’ survey made her want to ‘end it all’. Bullies created the account last month under Mia-Lili’s name without her knowledge.
Her parents only found out about it last week after being alerted by a family friend.
Bennett, from Norwich, reported the post to the police and Instagram, which she said swiftly removed it. Concerned that her daughter was being bullied again, Bennett, also told Mia-Lili about it to find out what had been happening.
She added: ‘I didn’t want to show her, but I needed to know what had been going on. She saw the post and just started crying.
‘She cried so much she collapsed and her dad had to scoop her up off the floor. She hasn’t stopped crying since, and neither have I.
‘We’ve had to put her on suicide watch at home. Her dad and I have to make sure someone is with her 24 hours a day because she keeps talking about ending it all.
‘It’s heartbreaking. I never thought I would be dealing with my daughter being a victim of cyber-bullying at such a young age. They’re still so innocent.’
Instagram only allows children aged at least 13 to open accounts. But Mia-Lili set one up last month without her parents’ consent, before telling her mother hours later. However, unaware that she needed to keep her Instagram profile private, Mia-Lili had left it open, making her easy prey for trolls.
The youngster agreed to delete the account, but before she did someone got hold of her profile photo and used it to set up the callous poll.
Bennett, who works at a bookmakers, said: ‘It has completely destroyed her confidence. She’s very self-conscious about the way she looks.
‘We tell her she’s beautiful all the time, but she won’t believe it. After it happened, Mia-Lili felt so self-conscious she didn’t want to go to school any more.
‘But she went on Friday and told me, “I won’t let them win”. I’m so proud of her.’ Mrs Bennett urged other parents to monitor their children’s internet activity more diligently to ensure they don’t become victims, too.
She added: ‘You don’t expect something this evil to happen. It’s horrible.
‘For someone to even think about being that malicious is horrendous.’
Anti-bullying campaigners said Mia-Lili’s experience typified the sort of vile – and often anonymous – abuse that some youngsters were bombarded with online, and backed her mother’s message.
Liam Hackett, founder of Ditch The Label, said: ‘We consider all types of bullying, including cyber-bullying, to be at epidemic levels.
‘Mia-Lili’s case sadly is not uncommon, so we know what an awful experience this must be for her.
‘Parents need to maintain an open, honest dialogue with their children at all times about what platforms they are using and ensure they know what to do if they experience any issues.
‘This will ensure they are far more likely to reach out with any bullying or abuse problems, as was thankfully the case with Mia-Lili’s mother, who was able to report the post and get it removed quickly.
‘Cyber-bullying also requires the full co-operation of social media networks to ensure reporting abuse is swift and easy and that their networks are as safe as possible.’
Michelle Napchan, of Instagram, said: ‘People want to feel free to express themselves online without fear of being bullied or attacked. That’s why Instagram provides the tools to help people report any offensive or hurtful content and has a team of reviewers to remove anything that violates our guidelines.’
A worldwide study of more than 150,000 under-25s this year found victims of cyber-bullying were twice as likely to commit suicide or self-harm.