The HBSC study has recognised the importance of research into bullying and how detrimental the effects are on children and adolescents. Bullying has been shown to have devastating and often long lasting psychological and physical health problems on both the victim and the perpetrator. Participating in bullying behaviour has been associated with other negative health behaviours, such as; drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco and taking illegal drugs,. The HBSC England questionnaire has always included questions about the traditional types of bullying, but for the next round we will also include questions on cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying harms victims through interactive technologies. Children and adolescents can use a variety of mediums including mobile phones, laptops and games consoles to cyberbully. The methods used by cyberbullies are endlessly inventive; including sending abusive messages, posting embarrassing photographs online, creating hate websites, sharing of personal information and silent calling victims. The development of cyberbullying was an inevitable progression in light of the recent rapid advances in technology and the growing increase in access to mobile phones, computers and the Internet, especially among young people.
Cyberbullying warrants the attention of HBSC England because it is an area which is still relatively unknown. The virtual world in which cyberbullying takes place is often uninhabited by adults; adults are left on the side line of current social media due to a lack of computer savvy skills. Ofcom found nearly half of parents believed their children were more Internet knowledgeable than themselves. Even for computer literate parents it is hard to monitor children's use of interactive technology because they often access it unsupervised through their mobile phones, and the social media sites and instant messaging services they use are exclusive and require acceptance as a "friend". This lack of adult presence makes detecting and understanding cyberbullying problematic.
Cyberbullying has properties which are not found in other types of bullying, so it is important to study it independent of the more traditional types. Cyberbullies can target their victim anytime and anywhere, because young people are almost always contactable through mobile phones. The bullying is no longer confined to just the school setting or other physical spaces, and the nature of cyberbullying means it can also reach a larger audience than the traditional forms of bullying. The actual act of calling someone names at school lasts for as long as the names are said, but a message of abuse posted on the Internet may stay online indefinitely for many more people to see. With most traditional forms of bullying the victim knows the perpetrator, but cyberbullying allows the perpetrator to remain anonymous and hidden which can be very distressing for the victim.
HBSC England acknowledges the detrimental effects cyberbullying can have on children and adolescents. By adding questions on this to the next HBSC England questionnaire we hope to understand cyberbullying and its consequences in more detail. The inevitable advancement of new technologies will only further heighten the interactive abilities of children, which will likely make this issue ever more important in coming years.
For more information visit BeatBullying.
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