20% of children have suffered cyberbullying

One in five Irish children has been bullied online, according to research.

20% of children have suffered cyberbullying

Of these children who experienced cyberbullying, one third also reported feelings of depression related to the abuse.

The research shows gross inconsistencies between parents’ reporting of child cyberbullying, as only one in ten adults said their son or daughter had been a victim of cyberbullying.

According to the research, 51% of the online bullying happens to children on Facebook; some 14% said they had been bullied on Instagram.

Approximately 29% of girls said they had been bullied on Snapchat, while 16% of boys reported being harassed on this platform.

These reports are despite all three social media platforms claiming to have robust reporting procedures in place to deal with this type of behaviour.

As well as surveying 186 children, the survey took information from 1,000 adults.

Of the adults surveyed, one in ten said they had been bullied online.

The bullying of women is more prevalent, with one in four reporting having been body-shamed online.

The online bullying related to numerous behaviours, with one third of people saying that someone had spread lies or rumours about them on the internet.

Some 18% of respondents said an embarrassing photograph of them had been posted online and 35% reported receiving threatening text messages or emails.

In terms of the platforms that adults experienced abuse on, 68% of respondents said the bullying happened on Facebook.

People were also asked how they dealt with the harassment — “unfollowing” or “unfriending” was the main action taken that victims had taken.

The research, carried out by ZenithOptimedia, was conducted to examine the safety of the internet and the prevalence of online bullying and body-shaming in Ireland.

“We are seeing significant decreases in levels of empathy in adolescent-aged young people,” said clinical psychotherapist Joanna Fortune.

“There are a number of factors that contribute to this, ranging from short-circuited early play stages to an immersion in a virtual and online world where nothing feels real.”

Ms Fortune, who works with children and adolescents in her practice, Solamh, said: “What this means is that I see a photo you post of yourself online and I comment that you look like a troll. Then I log off and go about my life and I do not pause to consider that when you log on and read what I wrote that you will have an emotional response that I am, at least in part, responsible for.

“As a result of decreasing empathy and reflective functioning we are seeing higher incidences of online bullying and lower self-esteem in this demographic than ever before.”

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