The number of Irish youths who have fallen victim to cyberbullying has amounted to one in every four teenagers, a new survey has revealed.
The study, conducted by YouGov on behalf of Vodafone, has found that the number of Irish teenagers being bullied is higher than any other of the 11 countries surveyed during the research, including the Italy, Spain, UK and America.
Despite the number being so high, Marie Duffy of Spunout.ie, has said that this is number is not purely down to new advances in technology, but realises that the ease of access online these days certainly doesn’t help the situation.
“Bullying is not a new thing, as there has always been bullying no matter what kind of technology we have had. The methods of bullying may have changed a bit and it may be harder to escape from, as with new technologies you can be bullied sitting right in your bedroom when before home was often a safe sanctuary away from bullying,” says Duffy.
In the survey, 45 per cent of teenagers admitted that they felt helpless when it came to cyberbullying, and that 29 per cent of young people felt completely alone. In order to combat this issue, Duffy believes it’s vital that people of all ages are aware of the dangers surrounding cyberbullying, and that young people need to know exactly what to do if they find themselves in that situation.
“We need to educate our young people, and other adults too around using things like Facebook, Twitter and online forums in a safe way. Once they are aware of the dangers, they are more able to protect themselves,” she said.
Duffy continued, “I think it’s important that they know how to react if they are the victim of cyber bullying. It’s important to keep the messages, screen shot them or save them. It’s also important not to engage with it as this is often what the bully wants and often it will just prolong the bullying.”
The importance of telling someone what is happening to you is not to be underestimated, “It’s also important to let a trusted adult know what is going on and that you don’t deal with the cyber bullying on your own.”
Throughout the survey, one in four of the teenagers who were cyberbullied admitted to having suicidal thoughts. Commenting on this figure, Duffy said, “The important thing if you are having suicidal thoughts is to first tell a trusted adult and make them aware as to how you’re feeling. The next thing is to make an urgent appointment with your GP or go straight to the A+E . It’s important that you have some support through this difficult time and don’t keep it to yourself.”
Duffy also believes that “parents should have a conversation with their young person and talk about what they are searching and viewing online,” but that “it’s wrong for a parent to have complete control over what young people are looking up online as this would discourage the young person from having an open conversation with their parent if they were being cyber bullied.”
Cyberbullying is an on-going issue, and while the numbers found throughout the study are high, Ms Duffy believes schools are doing “fantastic work about bullying and really support their young people” whenever they need assistance or come to them with the issue.