SA pupils falling into cyber bully trap

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Johannesburg - Bullying of young people between Grade 8 and 12 was on the rise, especially cyber-bullying, according to a study released by Unisa's Youth Research Unit (YRU) on Sunday.

“The YRU research study highlighted that almost three in every 10 learners (34.4 percent) who participated in the study were victims of bullying,” stated the study.

“Whereas four in 10 learners (38.1 percent) were aware of a friend being bullied, approximately a quarter (23.3 percent) admitted to having bullied other learners.”

The study included a total of 3371 Gauteng high school pupils and formed part the Schools Community Engagement research project.

It showed high rates of traditional forms of bullying and the emergence of cyber bullying as a new phenomenon.

“This was evident from 55.3 percent of learners who had experienced emotional bullying while almost one in every five (16.9 percent) had experienced cyber bullying.”

The authors of the study believed the emergence of cyber bullying needed to be noted as having an impact on the lives of young people, families and communities.

If ignored it could reach “crisis levels” which would impact negatively on broader society.

The study found that 67.7 percent of participants felt bullying had increased over the past two years, with 40.3 percent feeling cyber bullying in particular had increased in the same period.

Of the pupils who were cyber bullied, 53.6 percent received upsetting messages, 49 percent had rumours and gossip spread about them, and 48 percent were called names.

“Other cyber bullying incidents reported includes exposure to sexual remarks (24.5 percent), unflattering and suggestive personal photos spread online (13.3 percent) and being bullied, recorded and photos/videos distributed online (8.7 percent).”

The figures also showed evidence of “sexting” as a new phenomenon emerging among young people, according to the study.

The result of cyber bulling saw 74.5 percent of victims avoid chat rooms and 25.5 percent of victims avoided MXit.

The majority of bullying took place through SMSs and cellphone-accessed social networking.

Traditional bullying took place through name calling, physical encounters, threats and intimidation, with the majority of bullying taking place off school premises.

Professor Deon Tustin, executive director of the Bureau of Market Research in which the YRU was situated, said the depression and sadness caused by bullying affected young person's emotional development and functioning.

This could contribute to youth being trapped in a vicious cycle of exploitation and not being able to cope psychologically within the learning environment and broader society, he said

It could also lead to self-destructive behaviour.

The study did find that 51.6 percent of victims told their parents, peers, teachers or NGOs, while 48.7 percent said appropriate action was taken to prevent bullying.

“However, a concerning statistic emerging from the research shows that 44.0 percent of learners who were bullied reported that no action was taken to reprimand the perpetrator or deal with the bullying incident.”

Lack of action perpetuated violence as bullies faced no consequences, potentially increasing risk for victims. - Sapa

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