Rising toll of online bullying among children

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THE number of children being bullied on the internet has doubled this year, with more than one in three now victims, research suggests.

In a poll of 11 to 17-year-olds, 35 per cent reported that they have experienced cyber-bullying - compared with 16 per cent last year.

Four in 10 had witnessed others being picked on online - almost double the 22 per cent recorded last year.

The study also suggests that thousands of teenagers, including many aged 15 or under, use messaging service Snapchat and dating app Tinder every day.

Some parents even helped set their children up with accounts, prompting fears that they are unwittingly putting them at risk.

Internet security firm McAfee polled 2,000 UK children and 2,000 adults with at least one child aged under 18 ahead of the start of Anti-Bullying Week on Monday, and compared the findings with a similar study last year.

The research indicated that there is a more relaxed attitude among increasing numbers of parents regarding online risk.

Andy Phippen, professor of social responsibility in IT at Plymouth University, said: “The responses from McAfee’s survey shows that there is a real gap between parental concern and the reality of what children face online.

“While it is encouraging to see that these conversations are happening, there are areas in which parents may not be completely aware of their children’s online behaviour.

“It’s now time for parents to take the conversations to the next level and become further educated on the social platforms that exist, what ages they are suited for and what type of behaviour they encourage.

“Cyber-bullying happens across all platforms and children’s use of social media is transient.”

Around one in six of of the youngsters polled reported using Tinder every day.

Parent Diane Hall, who has two daughters, aged 10 and 15, said her youngest was an aspiring singer who had to face unpleasant online comments whenever she posted posted on YouTube of herself performing,

Mrs Hall, of Pontefract, had to step in earlier this week to block a persistant “troll” - a child living in the United States - who had posted nasty comments on YouTube about her daughter.

“I think parents should not just look to protect their kids against the dangers of the internet, but also the correct way to use it and that manners/decency are just as applicable in the virtual world.”

“There’s been a lot of support for permanently moderating comments across all sites which would stop the problem, but it also infringes free speech which is just wrong.”