Bullying is among parents’ greatest concerns. And little wonder. It’s the biggest modifiable risk factor for children and adolescents developing mental illnesses. Every few weeks there are reports of children and teens who have taken their lives, allegedly due to bullying and cyberbullying.
One in five (21% of) 14- to 15-year-olds report having been cyber bullied, up from 4% in eight- to nine-year-olds. Bullies post threatening messages, spread rumours and share humiliating images via sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram for teenagers, and Moshi Monsters and Club Penguin for pre-teens.
But contrary to public perception, bullying via social media is not as common as traditional forms of face-to-face bullying.
It’s natural for parents to want to protect their children and teens from bullying on social media, but simply taking their devices away is not the solution.
Who is cyber bullied?
Students who are bullied online are also likely to be victims of traditional bullying and most know the perpetrator in real life.
Like traditional bullying, the highest risk time for cyberbullying is at transition to high school.
Children and teens are also more likely to be bullied on social media if they:
- spend a lot of time online
- engage in risky online behaviours such as sharing passwords
- use social media sites to bully others.
Victims of cyberbullying report high rates of anxiety and depression.
But the evidence is mixed about whether cyber or traditional bullying impacts more on mental health. It’s likely that both have a serious impact.
There is also a cumulative effect: the more experiences of bullying (whether cyber or tradtional), the worse the mental health risk.
Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo discuss all things parenting on the podcast, This Glorious Mess.