According to a recent survey, cyber bullying is more rife than ever, as a fifth of secondary school pupils admit to saying something hurtful to someone online.
This is despite three in 10 secondary school pupils, and over a quarter of primary school pupils, having experienced some form of cyber bullying which concerned, frightened or upset them.
The research – conducted by education charity, Tablets for Schools – also showed that nearly a quarter of teenagers do not tell anyone if they have a negative experience online.
What this serves to highlight is more needs to be done to combat the growing problem of cyber bullying – in particular the factors behind such harmful behaviour.
Deanna Neilson, head of child protection at Action for Children said:
“It’s shocking that online bullying is so prevalent, but we must not lose sight of the fact that many of these children bully others because of something going wrong in their own lives, or being driven to it through fear of being bullied or socially shunned themselves.”
“Low self-esteem, stress at school or being victimised themselves by peers or adults are all reasons a child might act out on others.”
Significantly, more recent research published by Action for Children reveals that, of those who have admitted to bullying others online, nearly 60% said they did so to ‘fit in’ while 43% said it was a way of preventing themselves from being bullied.
Peer pressure and feeling unhappy were also cited as reasons for their bullying behaviour online.
Schools across the country are already educating teenagers and young people about the importance of staying safe online, but experts believe more needs to be done at home to help curb cyber bullying.
Dr Wollaston, a former GP, said parents should “think hard” about the potential harm their children may be exposed to using computers at home, while Deanna Neilson suggests parents should actively encourage their children to talk about their online activity.
“It’s important for parents to ask children about the day they’ve had online, just as they ask about the day they’ve had at school – whether your child is being bullied or bullying others, the problem, and any potentially more severe issues surrounding it, must be addressed.”