Authors concerned about impact on mental health
By Ian Birch
Almost one in five young people in the UK have been affected by cyber-bullying, according to research carried about by Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.
The study, commissioned by the National Children’s Bureau, looked at the worrying scale of the problem and its negative impacts on youngsters' mental health.
Cyber bullying is quite a new and very disturbing trend and is when someone uses the internet (e.g. email or social networking sites) or mobile phones (text messaging or MMS images) to harass, hurt or embarrass another person.
Among the 10-19 year olds interviewed, 69% of those bullied were girls. More girls than boys had also witnessed cyber-bullying, known someone who’d been bullied, or who was a cyber-bully.
Nearly three quarters of those surveyed thought cyber-bullying was just as harmful as other forms of bullying and, of those who’d sought support for this, most said they’d spoken to their parents/carers, whilst nearly half had asked a teacher or someone else at school for help.
The study gives some pro-active steps that young people took to deal with the problem including:
- Change or block their instant messenger
- Change their email address
- Change their mobile phone number
- Being careful who they gave their personal details too
I think it’s really important at this point that we remind any parents or young people reading this that youngsters can contact Childline for support, on a Freephone number, on 0800 1111.
Steven Walker, who led the research, which surveyed over 490 young people across the country, said:
"While most online interactions are neutral or positive the internet provides a new means through which children and young people are bullied.
"Some people who cyber-bully think that they won't get caught if they do it on a mobile phone or on the internet. The people who cyber-bully are usually jealous, angry or want to have revenge on someone, often for no reason at all.
"Cyber-bullies often think that getting their group of friends to laugh at someone makes them look cool or more popular; some people also bully others as a form of entertainment or because they are bored and have too much time on their hands; many do it for laughs or just to get a reaction.
"Respondents frequently wrote about 'messing with people's heads', causing 'upset', and even 'depression' deriving from the bullies' actions. One respondent told us that 'bullying greatly contributed to my low self-esteem'.
"Many suggested that this form of bullying, like other forms, can 'push people over the edge' and lead to suicide attempts and also successful suicides.
"Many of the respondents in our study thought that cyber-bullies do not actually think they are bullying. In the main they thought that cyber-bullying was seen by bullies as merely a form of 'harmless fun', a joke and therefore not an issue.
"Others thought cyber-bullies are motivated by a lack of confidence and a desire for control, perhaps because they are too cowardly to bully face to face.
"As the use of social media amongst young people continues to grow, unless properly addressed by host sites and government agencies the problem of cyber-bullying is only likely to get worse."
Childline - 0800 1111