Almost two thirds of 8-12-year-olds admit they would not tell their parents they are being cyberbullied while more than half say they have been victims of cyberbullies at least once.
Children's charity Barnardos — which surveyed the children — said the findings reinforce the need for online safety to be taught in schools.
The survey found 62% of eight-12-year-olds said they had seen others being cyberbullied, but 60% said they would never tell their parents and do not know how to start or have this conversation with their parents.
Barnardos said the findings were concerning and highlighted the need for the continued rollout countrywide of its ongoing online safety workshops, in association with Google.org, but also for online safety learning to be an essential part of the school curriculum.
The charity said since the pandemic and the return to face-to-face learning and workshops, schools have reported an increase in cyberbullying among students.
Its online safety programme ran a survey of 272 children to gauge the level of the problem, and hosted seven focus groups with more than 340 children aged eight-12 in six schools in Dublin and Cork in June.
It said it was clear from the focus groups that children in that age group had experience with cyberbullying. From the 272 children surveyed, the findings show:
- 62% have seen other people being cyberbullied;
- 53% have been cyberbullied themselves (once or many times);
- 18% have been cyberbullied in a way that really affected their ability to learn and to feel safe at school;
- 25% of the children surveyed responded that they had cyberbullied others.
Those who were cyberbullied said it took the form of hurtful comments, pictures or videos of them posted online, almost half said someone had made a false report about them in an online game, almost 40% said it involved someone “talking behind their back” in a separate group chat that they found out about later, and just over half said someone had excluded them from group chats or games online.
The charity said children seemed to have a very strong concept on how to define cyberbullying and why other children might cyberbully but when they were asked to decipher between sample posts that could be ‘cyberbullying’ or ‘just a joke’, it proved difficult for them, showing they understood cyberbullying can be quite nuanced and some people may be more sensitive than others.
But what was noteworthy was that 60% of those surveyed said they would never tell a parent if they were cyberbullied.
Barnardos chief executive Suzanne Connolly said the particular finding was concerning.
“This shows how important it is that we roll out our preventative online safety workshops for children and their parents. Our goal is to help parents and children have an open dialogue about online safety,” she said.
The findings have helped shape a new approach in Barnardos’ online safety programme, which it has been running in partnership with Google.org for the past four years.
But Ms Connolly said she hoped the views and experiences of children also continued to inform the development of the Department of Education’s next action plan on bullying.