The phone pings, you’ve just posted on social media, you check your phone and you suddenly get an awful feeling in the pit of your stomach.

It’s a comment from a name you don’t recognise and a profile picture which doesn’t have a face attached to it. Yet that person feels the need to comment on how you look or rate how intelligent they deem you to be.

That’s the reality of using social media.

My Grandparents used to say: “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it.”

Much simpler times back then. No mobile phones attached to our hips and hands, where the constant diatribe from faceless trolls take the opposite view. Nothing is off limits – even to use the death of loved ones as a form of nasty attacks, as my colleague Diane Dodds had to face one New Year’s Day.

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Yet this has been an issue many have suffered in silence from. Particularly young, impressionable people. They have read the insults, threats and taunts and sadly it has resulted in devastating consequences. Who can forget the very upsetting case of Ronan Hughes who was bullied online.

The media tend to focus on people in public life but most notably for our young people, this is a daily experience. When I was at school a bully could only torture their victim in school but today social media enables that bullying to continue at home and even during school holidays. These young people are getting tortured every day and whilst social media companies clamp down on someone breaching copyright laws, they are much slower when it comes to clamping down on those abusing people online.

Our social media world and technology has moved at such a pace that Government legislation is playing catch up. Online Safety legislation has been in the offering for many years.

We need to call time on the wild West online.

Faceless trolls can not get away with the stream of constant online abuse. Disturbingly, there are those who are making money out of sitting online creating abusive content and ready to strike against ordinary decent people, who are either going about doing their job or their normal day-to-day life.

Self-regulation has not worked. Despite the pleas from high profile figures and campaigners, who have felt the most devastating consequences of online harms. Tech companies cannot neglect their responsibilities either.

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One key issue that must be addressed is online anonymity. For any legislation to protect people online - whether that be threats, personal abuse, or cyber flashing, then dealing with anonymity is paramount. This can be done by easy verification processes. Those who choose to not be verified can then be barred from interacting with those who are. Through this one simple mechanism, it would significantly help cleanse the Internet of the some of the vile activity we see on a daily basis.

However, the Online Safety Act 2023 at Westminster failed sadly to deal with this in the scope of the legislation. This is despite the constant calls for inclusion of dealing with anonymous accounts from my DUP colleagues.

We must take a holistic approach that is focused on prevention and education. From an Executive point of view this was agreed through the cross Executive Online Safety Strategy and Action Plan, which aims to assist children and young people to participate in the online world in a positive, safe and responsible way.

Social media is a powerful tool. It’s a means of self-expression and free speech. But often it has strayed and stretched the boundaries. When the phone pings, I don’t want anyone to have that feeling in the pit of their stomach. I’ve been there and it’s time that changes.

Deborah Erskine is a Democratic Unionist Party MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone.