Life Learning

Saturday 30 August 2014

Bullies use boys, body shape and party snubs to taunt teenage girls

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

Published 07/02/2014 | 02:30

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Text bullying is more common than internet bullying
Text bullying is more common than internet bullying

When asked what upset them, students talked about nasty comments on photos, rumours, threats, name-calling, and not being 'liked'

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MOST conflicts involving teenage girls on social networking sites arise from jealousies over boys or pictures from parties that were posted knowing someone who hasn't been invited will see them.

Meanwhile, taunts about body shape are the most common theme in text bullying among teen girls, according to the latest Irish research on the cyberbullying scourge.

Text bullying is more common than internet bullying – but both forms have a lot in common when the perpetrators decide on how to upset their targets.

Much of it is related to being popular/unpopular and exclusion from 'in groups' in school.

Among the other worrying findings was the reluctance among girls to report cyberbullying to their teachers or parents.

This was usually because they feared it would result in loss of internet access, or that they would make things worse for the victim.

The findings of the study – which was carried out in a large girls' secondary school by Dr Debbie Ging and Dr James O'Higgins Norman of the Anti-Bullying Centre at Dublin City University (DCU) – are being presented today at a forum on cyberbullying being hosted by Sean Kelly MEP in Bray, Co Wicklow.

The research on teenage girls' understanding and experiences of cyberbullying involved a questionnaire and interviews with 116 pupils in the school, located in a large rural town.

They found that 53pc of girls had been personally upset by something on Facebook, which was, by far the most popular social media site visited by the girls.

When asked about what had upset them, they talked about nasty comments, comments on photos/profiles, fighting, threats, name-calling, rumours, secrets and making public on the sites about people not being "liked".

'MESSING'

The researchers also found that very few of the girls interviewed referred to cyberbullying and, instead, talked about "fighting" and "messing online".

Previous DCU research found that 14pc of students reported that they had been cyberbullied and 8pc admitted cyberbullying, while 39pc of girls and 30pc of boys reported that they had witnessed someone being cyberbullied.

This suggests that there is a 'silent majority' who are aware of cyberbullying and not reporting it, which is confirmed in the new study.

None of the pupils surveyed reported cyberbullying directly to a teacher and said they only told their parents if the bullying was repeated and threatening.

According to the researchers, "It would appear that the girls avoid reporting cyberbullying or getting involved in supporting someone else for fear of parents and/or teachers removing internet access, or for fear of making things worse for the victim."

"A reluctance to tell may also be attributable to the ambiguity of online comments, whereby it is difficult to prove that a comment or action is directed at a particular individual."

They say that in severe cases, bullying gets resolved if the victim tells someone and a parent or teacher subsequently took takes action, "but in the vast majority of cases, girls said they simply ignored or deleted comments and acted as if nothing had happened".

The researchers also spoke to teachers in the school, who often commented that they "felt like strangers in online spaces" and were concerned how certain behaviour were was being misconstrued by students as "messing".

Teachers were also found to be "somewhat defensive" about their responsibilities to address cyberbullying and the researchers believe there is a need for more training.

Irish Independent

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