Anglia Ruskin University has published a study which identifies how bullying via texts, e-mails, social networks can have detrimental effects on mental health for people aged 11 to 19.This reseacrh would estimate that nearly one in five UK youngsters have been the victim of cyberbullying, with more girls being affected than boys.
The study led by academics from the University, questioned almost 500 young people (273 girls and 200 boys) aged between 11 and 19 and almost a fifth (18.4%) admitted they had been subjected to cyberbullying (where a person uses the internet or mobile phones to bully another).
22% of girls questioned said they had been subjected to cyberbullying, while 13.5% of boys quizzed said they had experienced it. Two thirds (66%) of the young people questioned said they had witnessed cyberbullying or known someone who has been a victim. A third of those who experienced cyberbullying said it had affected their confidence “quite a lot” or “very” much, while half (52%) said cyberbullying had affected their mental and emotional wellbeing. Just over a quarter (29%) of those who had been cyberbullied had truanted from school, while more than a third (39%) had stopped socialising outside of school.
Cyberbullying was seen as being as harmful as direct face-to-face bullying by three-quarters of those surveyed. Some said it was worse as it is permanent, can involve posting harmful or distressing photos online, can be transmitted to people quickly and can strike at any time. Of those 188 young people who answered a question about whether they would seek help with cyberbullying, less than half (45%) said they would look for support. Those that said they would not seek help gave fear of making it worse and being able to deal with it themselves as some of the reasons. Those who had been cyberbullied were most likely to seek help from parents and friends.
Steven Walker, Principle Lecturer in child and adolescent mental health, who led the research said: âWhile most online interactions are neutral or positive the internet provides a new means through which children and young people are bullied. Many of the respondents in our study thought that cyberbullies do not actually think they are bullying. In the main they thought that cyberbullying was seen by bullies as merely a form of ‘harmless fun’, a joke and therefore not an issue. Others thought cyberbullies 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 cyberbullying is only likely to get worse.”