Bullies still prefer to be in your face‚ UK study finds

16 July 2017 - 00:02 By Aron Hyman
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

If your child is being bullied online‚ they are 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 after studying 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 wrote 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 with teachers in South Africa then it’s clear that there are subtler ways of cyberbullying‚” he said. “For example‚ if a kid starts a WhatsApp groups and he invites friends and then suddenly kicks you out and says‚ ‘you’re not part of my group’ — that’s a form of cyberbullying.

“I think it will depend on how one wants to define the concept of cyberbullying. A 15-year-old‚ like those in the study‚ might not even be aware of what constitutes cyberbullying. To him it means that someone sends him an email and calls him names.”

Van Solms also disagreed with Przybylski’s deduction that cyberbullying is a new avenue used by bullies to target the same victims.

“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 who 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 into committing suicide; and to grooming websites where teens are manipulated into sending naked pictures of themselves which are then posted online.