More than one in four teens 'victims of cyberbullying'

New figures show that more than one in four (26%) Irish teenagers have been the victim of cyberbullying.

Irish teenagers think cyberbullying is worse than face-to-face bullying (60 %) and over half (51%) believe it to be a bigger problem than drug abuse for young people, a global survey of almost 5,000 teenagers across 11 countries, including Ireland, has revealed.

Conducted by YouGov on behalf of Vodafone, the research found that one in four teens in Ireland had been cyberbullied compared with one in five teens across the other countries surveyed.

Many Irish teens said they felt helpless (45%) when it happened to them with three in ten (29%) admitting to feeling completely alone.

One in four of those who had been cyberbullied went so far as to experience suicidal thoughts as a result.

However four in ten (41%) admitted that they would find it hard to find the right words to support a friend who was being bullied online.

Almost three quarters (74%) of Irish teens (globally: 72%) surveyed said they would be likely to use an emoji to express compassion or support for friends being cyberbullied.

The Vodafone Foundation will donate 14 cents for every public Facebook like of Vodafone’s image of the #BeStrong emojis via Vodafone Ireland Foundation’s Facebook Page or retweet from @VodafoneIreland.

Speaking at the launch of Vodafone Ireland’s #BeStrong anti-cyberbullying initiative this morning, CEO of the ISPCC Grainia Longsaid that there is a mis-match between what children think of bullying and the services being provided to them.

"It's showing that across a number of age ranges, children are increasingly concerned about cyberbullying and actually are saying that cyberbullying is more of a worry to them than any other form of bullying," she said.

"So it shows two things - it shows that children are really worried about the issue, but I think it also shows a mis-match between what children think and the kind of services that we are providing."

The initiative #BeStrong includes the creation of a suite of ‘support emojis’ for teens to use to convey compassion, sympathy and support when friends are being bullied online.

The emojis were chosen by the 5,000 teens surveyed from a wide selection designed by Vodafone and its anti-bullying panel which included NGOs, semioticians, designers and Berkeley University Professor Dacher Keltner - the psychologist who advised on the creation of the characters for Pixar film Inside Out and are now available for download.

Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan TD also attended the breakfast briefing in Dublin today.

“No one who is experiencing bullying of any form should suffer in silence and this is particularly true in terms of cyber bullying,” she said.

“I want to acknowledge the tremendous work currently being done by a range of voluntary organisations, some supported by my Department, in tackling cyberbullying.

“This research and the #Bestrong initiative will prove beneficial to everyone working in this important area. One of the main themes to emerge from the research is that teenagers want to help and support each other when a friend is being bullied online.

“Giving teenagers an additional communication tool to achieve that goal, through the use of emojis, is a great initiative.”

More than one in four teens 'victims of cyberbullying'

Launching the initiative, Vodafone CEO Anne O’Leary said: “We know that children want to reach out and help or support each other, this was very evident from the research, but there is an issue around how they can do that.

“Recent academic research has found that it is difficult for young people to show compassion and support for their friends in words if they are being bullied online.

“That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to us. We have all been tongue-tied teenagers at some stage and have difficulty expressing what we feel.

“I hope that our research and the new emojis will be of some help in the battle against cyberbullying. We have a long way to go in terms of dealing with the overall problem but every small step helps.”

Clinical psychologist David Coleman said: "We all know that the non-verbal element of our communication is as important as what gets said in conveying our meaning to the other person. In an online world there is no such non-verbal behaviour.

“Instead we rely on acronyms and emojiis to explain the emotional tone of what we are trying to say.

“The development of these emojis, by Vodafone gives more choice and an easy shorthand for teens to show support and empathy with their peers who are being bullied.

“Making it easier for teens to support and stand up for each other might lessen the distress and isolation that cyberbullying can cause."

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