Cyber a 'subtle' way to bully children

12 July 2017 - 08:14 By ARON HYMAN
Image: Thinkstock

If your child is being bullied online, he or she is probably being bullied in person as well.

"Cyberbullying, on its own, is relatively rare, with face-to-face bullying remaining most common among teenagers," said Andrew Przybylski of Oxford University, who studied 110,000 teenagers in the UK.

"Cyberbullying is best understood as a new avenue to victimise those already being bullied in traditional ways, rather than a way to pick on new victims," Przybylski said in an article in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal.

But Basie van Solms, director of the Centre for Cyber Security at the University of Johannesburg, doubted the findings and said the survey might have defined cyberbullying too narrowly.

"If you speak to teachers in South Africa, it's clear there are more subtle ways of cyberbullying. If a kid starts a WhatsApp group,invites friends and then suddenly kicks you out and says, 'You're not part of my group' - that's a form of cyberbullying," he said.

"A 15-year-old, as with those in the study, might not even be aware of what constitutes cyberbullying. To him it means someone sends him an e-mail and calls him names."

Van Solms said: "The whole point about cyber is that you can do it anonymously. I might not go to school and insult a kid but I'll do it in a subtle way by posting something on Facebook. I don't have to physically confront the opponent I'm trying to insult."

Van Solms said cyberbullying was often subtle, pointing to trends such as the Blue Whale game which, through a task-oriented approach, manipulates people to commit suicide; and to grooming websites in which teens are duped into sending naked pictures of themselves which are then posted online.