The NSPCC, in conjunction with the Royal College of GPs (RCGPs) has issued guidelines to doctors to help them spot signs of cyber-bullying, as well as trafficking and female genital mutilation (FGM).

The move comes as a doubling in the number of children experiencing cyber-bullying, up to 35% from 16% last year, is suggested by a poll of 2,000 11-17 year olds and 2,000 adults by internet security company McAfee. Just as worrying is that 67% of children went online unsupervised and that only 27% of parents said they were worried about their children becoming victims.

One anonymous cyber-bully who would have rather stayed anonymous was Brenda Leyland, 63, from Burton Overy in Leicestershire who sent a stream of abusive “tweets” to Gerry and Kate McCann, who lost their daughter Madeline in Portugal in 2007. Following Leyland’s tracing and exposure by a crime reporter, and vile death threats from other anonymous internet “trolls” who supported the McCanns, she was found dead in a hotel room, reportedly unable to live with herself and the certainty of police investigation and prosecution for her actions.

When asked for reasons for her sick trolling Leyland simply said “I’m entitled to do that”.

Actually not. It is an offence under the Malicious Communications Act to send sexually offensive or abusive material and the current maximum penalty for internet trolling which threatens violence or incites others to commit crimes is a six month prison term, this soon to be raised to two years.

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