The internet has turned more children into bullies because they do not have to be large to abuse someone online, according to rugby star Gareth Thomas.
The anti-bullying campaigner said smaller children could now join in on harassing their peers because ‘size becomes irrelevant’ on the internet.
He said that while in previous generations the bullies would be the ‘big boys’ in school, now anyone can pick on their classmates by ‘hiding behind a computer screen’.
If you can hide behind a computer screen or a phone then your size almost becomes irrelevant.
‘Before, the bullies were always the biggest ones because they were the ones that could get away with it.
‘Now, it could be literally anybody.’
Thomas, who was bullied while at school himself, said the internet also meant it was much harder to find out who was behind the abuse.
He added: ‘In my day, you could usually find out who the bullies were, whether they’d be the coolest kids or the biggest kids. They weren’t usually the littlest kids or the intelligent group of children.‘The internet has definitely opened it up as an opportunity for people to be able to hide away and to target people they wouldn’t say something face-to-face to.’
Through his schools programme, he said he was teaching children to ‘empathise’ with the person they were sending a message to and think about whether they would say it to their face.
He said he knew what it was like to be bullied because other children excluded him in his school in Sarn, near Bridgend.
But a kind PE teacher spotted his talent in rugby and encouraged him to keep coming to school in order to nurture his skills.
Speaking ahead of his appearance at the Sunday Times Festival of Education, he also warned that many children today are not prepared for the hard graft it takes for success.
He said television talent shows had led some youngsters to think fame and fortune could be instant and did not involve years of toil.
He said: ‘We have this quick-fix culture that’s landed in children at the moment where, due to the X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, they want something, they have it.
‘They go to sleep tonight and tomorrow they expect to wake up and be whatever they want to be.
‘A lot of children, when you ask them what they want to be, they want to be rich and they want to be famous.
‘And not really having an understanding, maybe, of how you become rich or how you become famous.
‘I do feel that if you turn on the TV, and we do see people’s stories of rising from perceivably nothing to having everything overnight.’
Thomas said he hoped to be an inspiration to other young sportsmen by coming out as gay in 2009, after divorcing his wife Jemma.
Last year, he posed for photos with 51-year-old boyfriend Ian Baum, who he described as ‘the final piece of the jigsaw’.
Asked if he would have children of his own, he said ‘probably not’ as he had the ‘best of both worlds’ by spending time with children of his family members.
Gareth Thomas is appearing at the Sunday Times Festival of Education between 18-19 June as an anti-bullying champion for the Balls To Bullying campaign, which is run by Prospero Teaching.
Source: Daily Mail