Cyber-bullying is fast becoming a bigger problem for young adults than drug abuse, with 20% of teenagers victimised and 51% of adolescents saying it is more vicious than face-to-face bullying.
This is according to the Vodafone global survey of teen cyber-bullying, released in September last year. It was done in 11 countries: the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, New Zealand, Greece, South Africa, the US, Ireland and the Czech Republic.
Of the 4720 teenagers surveyed, 43% said cyber-bullying was a bigger problem for today’s youth than drug abuse.
Social media law expert Emma Sadleir said cyber-bullying is different to traditional bullying because it is often faceless and more vicious.
“In the old days, it was just the immediate audience who would hear or see what was being done but now, everybody sees it on the internet, and it is permanent,” she said.
In the past few years cyber-bullying has grown significantly. In 2014, a US study by McAfee, Teens and the Screen Study: Exploring Online Privacy, Social Networking and Cyber Bullying, found that 87% of the 1502 young adults surveyed had witnessed cyber-bullying, more than triple the previous year’s result of 27%.
The same study found that a quarter of those bullied were victimised for their appearance, another quarter for their race or religion, and a fifth for their sexuality.
Danny Myburgh, MD of South Africa’s Cyanre Computer Forensic Laboratory, said the growth of social media had driventhe evolution of cyber-bullying.
Marketing research company TRU Insights, in partnership with McAfee, found that in 2012 “92.6% of cyber bullying [was] on Facebook, 23.8% on Twitter, 17.7% on MySpace and 15.2% on direct-messaging apps”.
Contemplation of suicide is common among cyber-bullying victims, with about 18% of them considering it, according to Vodafone.
Myburgh said: “Before parents allow their children access to technology, and especially social media, the children should be made to understand the consequences of their behaviour online.”