Popular photo- andvideo-sharing app Instagram leads when it comes to the social media platforms on which people experience cyber bullying, accounting for 42% of such behaviour that occurs online.
Other social media platforms such as Facebook account for 37%, while 31% of bullying occurs on Snapchat, 12% on WhatsApp, 10% on YouTube and 9% on Twitter.
This is according to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), citing 2021 statistics from BroadbandSearch, which it analysed for its research on cyber bullying.
The CSIR hosted a virtual media briefing yesterday to present research on the effects of cyber bullying in SA and its negative impact on society at large.
CSIR senior researcher Sipho Ngobeni said the stats show a lot of people are cyber bullied on Instagram. “I was expecting the results to show Facebook…because a lot of people these days use Facebook.
“You’ll find that learners, even though they might not have a cellphone, will use a friend’s cellphone to create a Facebook account. That’s how some of these accounts are created, without the parent’s knowledge.”
Ngobeni cited physical appearance as one of the main contributing factors to people getting cyber bullied, followed by academic achievement or intelligence, race and sexuality.
In terms of issues that result because of the cyber bullying, the research findings show 41% of people develop social anxiety, with 37% of them developing depression, he stated.
Furthermore, 26% have suicidal thoughts, 25% engage in self-harm, 24% stop using social media altogether, 20% start to skip classes, 14% develop eating disorders, while 9% begin to abuse alcohol and drugs.
“These findings show cyber bullying is actually a very serious issue and we need to take it very seriously.”
According to Ngobeni, the CSIR’s Information and Cyber Security Centre division, through its cyber security awareness programme, has been educating Internet users on how they can defend and protect themselves while surfing the Web.
“We have piloted this programme in different business environments in government and the public sector, as well as private industries, to mention a few.”
The initiative, he explained, is structured into five main themes: computer malware, safe surfing, social aspects of cyber security, mobile security and physical security.
Executives, cleaners and other people that work in the IT environment of the business are then trained in accordance to the themes. “It’s for everyone because we feel that cyber security awareness affects everyone in the context of business.”
Protect the kids
Referencing a 2018 Global Advisory Survey on cyber bullying, Ngobeni said it revealed that one in three parents reported a child in their community as having experienced cyber bullying.
The survey, in which SA also participated, indicated that 54% of local parents said they knew of a child being cyber bullied, whether it was their own or someone within their community.
“54% is a lot…the numbers in the findings are scary.”
Another CSIR researcher Rofhiwa Netshiya said: “We need to educate children that all forms of cyber bullying are wrong and can lead to serious discipline.”
Netshiya advised parents to install Internet monitoring software on their children’s computers to be able to track their activities on social media.
“There are low-cost products that can invisibly monitor the activities of your kids, and privately e-mail you the results as often as you like. These are very important to track Internet sites visited, downloads, chat room conversations and instant messaging.”
Parents are also advised to reinforce positive morals and values, and educate their children about appropriate online behaviour, such as the use of account privacy settings, reporting the matter to the police and providing unconditional support to their children should they experience cyber bullying.