As Arya Stark on HBO’s hit show “Game of Thrones,” Maisie Williams is an expert at sword-fighting. But now the 18-year-old star is opening up about her battles with real-life villains online.
In a behind-the-scenes interview about her new UK television movie, “Cyberbully,” Williams confesses she struggles with the same social media torment as other teens.
“As soon as someone finds something that you’re insecure about, or that bothers you, they will use that against you, which is awful,” the actress says in the video.
It’s exactly the kind of digital dragon she faces on screen in “Cyberbully.” In the film, Williams plays a teen being taunted by an online abuser using an all-too-common tactic: anonymity.
Cyberbullying expert Paula Todd says virtual attacks can sometimes be even worse than face-to-face bullying.
“You can run home after you’ve been pushed around at school, but you can’t run from cyber abuse because it’s always there,” Todd, author of "Extreme Mean," told ABC News.
Adding, Even the old mainstay of bullying advice – to simply ignore it — isn’t enough anymore.
“We are allowed to be on the Internet,” she adds. “Cyber abusers are not allowed to attack us. To ask somebody who is being vilified online to close their mind to what’s the biggest communication stream in our world right now, it is unrealistic, and it’s unfair.”
For parents, awareness and monitoring are key.
“You need to say with them just the way you would allowing them to drive a car,” she explained. “The Internet, just because it’s free and it’s accessible doesn’t mean it’s instantly safe to use.”
As for Williams, she admits the online taunts can be hard to ignore.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, that’s just a troll, it’s OK, don’t let it bother you,’” she said, “But it does hurt, even for someone who knows how to put up a fight.”
Such cyberbullying is only getting worse because there are simply more ways to do it, expert Todd adds, with more devices, platforms and apps than ever before.