A quarter of Irish teenagers have suffered online bullying, according to an international survey of young people.
Six in 10 of the Irish teens who responded to the survey think cyberbullying is worse than face-to-face bullying and just over half (51%) believe it to be a bigger problem than drug abuse for young people.
The survey of 4,720 13-18-year-olds gauged the views of young people from Ireland, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, New Zealand, Greece, South Africa, the US, and Czech Republic.
Ireland’s 25% rate of cyberbullying is second only to New Zealand, where three in 10 young people said they had been bullied online.
The survey, conducted on behalf of Vodafone, found that 45% of Irish teens said they felt helpless when it happened to them, with 29% admitting to feeling completely alone. One in four said they had experienced suicidal thoughts as a result.
Nine in ten Irish teens said they would find it easier to cope with cyberbullying if they received support from their friends on social media. However, 41% admitted it would be difficult for them to find the right words to support a friend who was being bullied online.
The survey’s findings were revealed at an event in Dublin yesterday where Vodafone Ireland launched the #BeStrong anti-cyberbullying initiative. It includes the creation of ‘support emojis’ for teens.
The emojis were chosen by surveyed teens from a selection of images created by Vodafone, NGOs, semioticians, designers, and Berkeley University’s Professor Dacher Keltner, the psychologist who advised on the creation of the characters for the Pixar film Inside Out.
Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan said: “No one who is experiencing bullying of any form should suffer in silence and this is particularly true in terms of cyberbullying.
“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.”
ISPCC chief executive Grainia Long said cyberbullying can leave a young person feeling vulnerable, frightened and alone.
“As a society we need to work together to tackle cyberbullying and equip young people with the confidence and skills needed to safely navigate this new world they inhabit and this campaign demonstrates how this can be achieved and utilises mediums that young people can connect with,” she said.
Clinical psychologist David Coleman said 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,” he said.
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