Cyberbullying is a far more dangerous threat to children than many parents think. The consequences for the majority of young victims of online harassment include serious problems with health and socialisation.
According to the “Growing Up Online – Connected Kids” study by Kaspersky Lab and iconKids & Youth, cyberbullying is intentional intimidation, persecution or abuse that children and teenagers may encounter on the internet. Interestingly, children aged 8-16 are more wary of this threat than their parents are.
The study shows that 13% of children and 21% of parents consider it harmless. At the same time, 16% of the children surveyed are more afraid of being bullied online than offline, while half (50%) are equally afraid of both real-life and virtual bullying.
Parents should not downplay the dangers of cyberbullying. Despite the fact that the study found only 4% of children admitted to being bullied online (compared to 12% in real life), in seven out of 10 cases the consequences were traumatic.
Bullying on the Internet seriously affected their emotional well-being: parents of 37% of the victims reported lower self-esteem, 30% saw a deterioration in their performance at school, and 28% cited depression. In addition, 25% of parents stated that cyberbullying had disrupted their child’s sleep patterns and caused nightmares (21%). Another 26% of parents noticed that their child had started avoiding contact with other children, and 20% discovered their child had anorexia.
Just as worrying are the statistics showing that 20% of children witnessed others being bullied online, and in 7% of cases even participated in it. The survey shows that children often hide incidents of cyberbullying from their parents, making the task of protecting them even more complicated, though, fortunately, not impossible.
Andrei Mochola, head of consumer business at Kaspersky Lab, comments: “In an effort to protect our children from danger, we mustn’t forget that they not only live in the real world but also in the virtual world, which is just as real to them. On the Internet, children socialise, learn new things, have fun and, unfortunately, encounter unpleasant situations.
“Cyberbullying is one of the most dangerous things that can confront a child on the Internet, because it can have a negative impact on their psyche and cause problems for the rest of their lives. The best solution in this case is to talk to your child and to use parental control software that can alert you to any suspicious changes to their social network page.”