There’s no doubt that cyber bullying ranks towards the top of most parents ‘worry list’. As a mum of 4, I can tell you it always came in my top five, usually alongside driving, drugs, cigarettes and alcohol! But when McAfee research in May revealed that Aussie kids experience the 2nd highest rate of cyberbullying out of the 10 countries interviewed, my heart skipped a beat. Clearly cyberbullying is a big problem for Aussie kids. Bigger than I had previously thought. But many of us parents had so many more questions: what can it look like? where does it happen? and could my child be a perpetrator?
So, as an ally of connected families, McAfee set out to answer these questions so undertook more research through a detailed 10-country online questionnaire to 11,687 parents and their children in June. And the answers were quite revealing…
What is Cyberbullying?
Before we get into the results, let’s clarify what cyberbullying means. There is often a lot of confusion because let’s be honest, different kids have different tolerances, standards and cultural lenses for what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. The definition of cyberbullying used in McAfee’s report was based on the definition by StopBullying.Gov:
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behaviour.
McAfee’s definition was then expanded to include specific acts of cyberbullying, such as:
- flaming – online arguments that can include personal attacks
- outing – disclosing someone’s sexual orientation without their consent
- trolling – intentionally trying to instigate a conflict through antagonistic messages
- doxing – publishing private or identifying information without someone’s consent
Along with other acts, including:
- name calling
- spreading false rumours
- sending explicit images or messages
- cyberstalking, harassment, and physical threats
- exclusion from group chats and conversation
What Is The Most Common Form of Cyberbullying for Aussie Kids?
Even though racially motivated cyberbullying is on the rise, name-calling is the most common form of cyberbullying with 40% of kids globally reporting that they have been on the receiving end of it. Interestingly, in Australia, our kids receive this style of bullying more frequently, with 49% of Aussie kids affected.
Exclusion from group chats and conversations is the 2nd most commonly reported form of cyberbullying with 36% of kids globally experiencing it. In Australia, this is higher at 42%.
The spreading of false rumours rounds out the top three forms and was reported by 28% of children globally. Curiously, Aussie kids don’t seem to use this form just as commonly with just 24% affected. Japan stands out as the leader in this reported form of cyberbullying at 44% followed by Germany at 35% and India at 39%.
1 in 8 Aussie kids reports receiving extreme cyberbullying threats eg stalking, harassment and physical threats online. This is in line with the global average however in India and the US, more young people are affected with 1 in 5 reporting this behaviour.
Where Is Cyberbullying Taking Place?
It’s All About Social Media
It’s no surprise that the bulk of cyberbullying is happening on social media with 32% of kids affected globally. Group chats come in as the 2nd most commonplace with 24% of kids involved followed by online gaming being an issue for 22% of kids surveyed. 21% of kids experienced cyberbullying on websites and forums and 19% identified that they experienced cyberbullying via text messages.
Globally, Facebook is the social media site where cyberbullying is most likely to occur. 53% of children report witnessing it and 50% report experiencing it. This is followed by Instagram (40% witnessing and 30% experiencing), YouTube, TikTok and then Twitter.
Overall, Aussie kids appear to experience less cyberbullying on social media with just 47% witnessing it on Facebook and 37% experiencing it. Our kids also report lower levels on Instagram as well with 34% witnessing and 30% experiencing.
Snapchat Is a Cyberbullying Hot Bed for Aussie Kids
It appears that Snapchat is unfortunately where a lot of undesirable behaviour happens for our Aussie kids with 34% reporting that they have been affected on this platform – a huge 10% above the international average and the highest of any country included in the survey.
Who’s Doing The Bullying?
Most Cyberbullying Comes From Someone Known To The Victim
I’m sure it’s not a surprise to many parents that most cyberbullying comes from someone known to the victim. In fact, 57% of kids worldwide confirmed this with just 45% nominating that the cyberbullying they received had been initiated by a stranger. And Aussie kids’ experiences reflect the global norm with 56% expressing that they also knew the perpetrator but only 36% experienced cyberbullying from a stranger. Interestingly, only India, reported more cyberbullying at the hands of strangers (70%) than by someone the child knows (66%).
Most Kids Don’t Think They’ve Ever Been Cyberbullied But The Results Show Otherwise
Globally, 81% of all children surveyed stated that they had never cyberbullied anyone while just 19% admitted that they had. But when questioned further, it became apparent that there may be some disconnect. In fact, when asked about specific cyberbullying behaviours, more than half of children worldwide (53%) admitted to committing one or more types of cyberbullying —perhaps indicating that their definition of cyberbullying differs from the clinically accepted definition. The most common acts that they admitted to included making a joke at someone else’s expense (22%), name-calling (18%) and excluding someone from a chat or conversation (15%).
Are Aussie Kids and Parents Worried?
It appears that our kids are calmer about the state of cyberbullying that their peers worldwide. Only 46% of our kids reported they were more concerned about being cyberbullied now than last year, compared to a 59% average worldwide. Aussie children said they are among the least concerned children in the world, alongside Canada at 44%, the U.K. at 43%, and Germany at 38%.
And Aussie parents also appear calmer than parents from other countries with only 61% nominating they were more concerned about their child being cyberbullied today versus last year, compared to the 72% international average. Australian parents also showed the least level of worry that their child may be a cyberbully. Only 41% said that they worried this was more likely this year than last, compared to 56% of parents elsewhere.
Now, this could be because the online learning and tech-heavy phase of the pandemic is, thankfully, over and we are not as focussed on technology-related issues. Or perhaps it’s because we really are a nation of ‘laid-back’ types! The jury is still out…
What Do We Do About It?
We all know that it’s impossible to fix a problem if you don’t truly understand it. So, while these statistics might be a little overwhelming, please soak them in. Appreciating the complexities of this problem and digesting how cyberbullying can look and impact our kids is essential. Now, as first-generation digital parents, it may take us a little longer to wrap our heads around it and that’s ok. The most important thing is that we commit to understanding the problem so that we are in the best position possible to support and guide our kids.
In my next blog post, I will be sharing more detailed strategies that will help you minimise the risk of your child becoming a victim of cyberbullying. I will also include advice on what to do if your child is affected by cyberbullying plus what to do if your child is in fact a cyberbully.
‘Till next time.
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