Calls for more regulation as teen cyberbullying on messaging apps increased during virus lockdown
Cyberbullying on instant messaging apps increased among young teens during lockdown.
Two thirds of children who were cyberbullied during lockdown said it was more common on apps, according to a study on children's internet use during the pandemic carried out at the Anti-Bullying Centre in DCU.
Researcher Dr Tijana Milosevic is now calling for debate on the regulation of private messaging apps.
The research found that of almost 66pc of children between 14 and 16 who reported being bullied, it was more prevalent on private instant messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp and Viber.
"I would like to draw attention to the increase in cyberbullying on direct messaging/instant messaging apps, which we notice for children who were cyberbullied in the 14-to-16 age group," Dr Milosevic said.
"There's some debate about how to go about regulating such technology, having in mind the private nature of conversations there, which makes these distinct from social media.
"Cyberbullying can look different on private messaging. This can create challenges for prevention and intervention."
Almost a third of children (28pc) and youths suffered online bullying during lockdown.
Among those, 39pc said this happened more frequently during lockdown, 37pc said it happened about as frequently as before, while 23pc said it happened less frequently.
Cyberbullying was found to be more prevalent within younger age-groups, between males and on messaging apps.
Some 42pc of parents reported worrying about cyberbullying and 62pc worried about their children's mental health.
"We expected to see an increased worry in parents but these findings reveal a number of parents also experience benefits related to digital technology use," Dr Milosevic said.
More than half (57pc) of parents, reported concern the pandemic would have a negative impact on their child's education.
Most children and young people reported using their smartphones more during lockdown as they tried to stay connected to peers. Half of the children also witnessed someone else being bullied.
Some 58pc of parents reported being more worried during lockdown about excessive internet and digital technology use.
The increase in bullying played out as 71pc of children admitted using smartphones more than ever before during lockdown.