Online bullying affects over half of UK children

A new study has found that 55% of children have been bullied or abused online, and it is a top concern for teachers

More than half (55%) of children in the UK admit to having experienced online bullying or abuse and over a third say they would tell no one if they were being cyber bullied, according to new research from internet safety company Smoothwall.

The study reveals that, when suffering from online abuse, children most often describe feeling upset, angry, anxious and insecure. Exploring the points where this problem can be combated, the study signals there is some overconfidence from parents. Over two thirds believe they would notice a change in behaviour if their child was being bullied, yet only 19% of parents believe their child has suffered abuse online, despite the results revealing this figure is much higher. 

Looking at the classroom, the findings uncover that almost all teachers rely on children to alert them to cyberbullying issues. However, only 5% of pupils say they would confide in a teacher if they were being cyberbullied. 

Similarly, the study reveals that teachers are further hampered by not having the right tools or support when it comes to cyber bullying. In previous research from Smoothwall last year, cyberbullying was the biggest concern of teachers (66%). Fast-forward and the issue is still very prevalent, and teachers feel they aren’t being supported enough to tackle the problem. Over two thirds (67%) of teachers admit they need more support to deal with cyberbullying concerns. 

Parents have similar views. Seven in ten (70%) call for more online safety classes to be taught in schools, while from the schools’ perspective, 88% teachers believe that parents need to be better educated about social media and technology in order to combat online bullying and abuse. The apps cited as the most common places for cyber bullying to occur are Snapchat (48%), Facebook (42%) and Instagram (39%). 

Claire Daniels, Online Safety Expert at Smoothwall said: “Regrettably, cyberbullying continues to be a major concern for teachers. What is even more worrying however is the clear disconnect between teachers, parents and children. Parents and teachers are putting the onus on each other to combat these issues. Each party also appears to have an inaccurate view of just how many children cyber bullying is affecting. The willing is there – they want to help young people. But there is a real education needed to make clear the sheer scale of bullying and abuse.”

“As an industry, with the government, we need to work with them to ensure they are educated on the subject, know how to detect it if their child or pupils are showing signs of cyber bullying, and also know how to support children who may have fallen victim. Only together can we eradicate instances of cyber bullying, and ensure the internet is a safe place for children.”