Published: 1 August 2011 at 16:09
Anglia Ruskin research discovers impact on young people’s mental health
Almost one in five young people in the UK have been the victim of cyber-bullying, according to research carried out by academics at Anglia Ruskin University.
The study, commissioned by leading children’s charity the National Children’s Bureau on behalf of its Wellcome Trust-funded PEAR young people’s group, examined the scale of cyber-bullying and the negative effect it has on young people’s mental health.
Cyber-bullying is a relatively new problem which involves people using the internet or mobile phones to distribute text or images to harass, hurt or embarrass another person.
Steven Walker, Principle Lecturer in Child & Adolescent Mental Health at Anglia Ruskin, led the research amongst young people aged 10-19 and discovered that cyber-bullying was far more prevalent amongst girls. Amongst the young people surveyed, 18.4% admitted to being a victim of cyber-bullying and 69% of those bullied were girls.
More girls than boys had also witnessed cyber-bullying, known somebody who had been cyber-bullied or known somebody who had cyber-bullied others.
Of those who said they had been affected by cyber-bullying the most common effects were on their confidence, self-esteem and mental and emotional well-being. Over a quarter of those who had been cyber-bullied (28.8%) said that they had stayed away from school and over a third (38.9%) had stopped socialising outside school as a result of cyber-bullying.
Most young people thought cyber-bullying was just as harmful as other forms of bullying (74.4%). Some thought it was far worse because this bullying is permanent in written or picture format, could get very personal and be transmitted to many more people more quickly.
It was also suggested that the secretive nature of cyber-bullying caused additional fear in the victim. Also, because cyber-bullying can take place at any time and in any place, options for escape are limited.
Of those who had sought support to deal with cyber-bullying, most said that they had spoken to their parents/carers, while nearly half had approached a teacher or someone else in school. Reasons for not seeking support included a fear of making the cyber-bullying worse and feeling that they were able to deal with the incident themselves.
Some key strategies used by young people to deal with cyber-bullying included; changing or blocking their instant messenger, email addresses and mobile numbers; and being careful who they gave their personal details to. Only a small minority took action by reducing their use of social networking sites.
Steven Walker, who led the research which surveyed over 490 young people across the country, said: