Researchers zoom in on increasing cyberbullying
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Pretoria - Cyberbullying in South Africa was most prevalent in adolescents aged between 12 and 19.
This is according to the Cyberbullying Research Centre at the CSIR which found some of the increasing problem was 61% due to appearance, 25% to academic achievement or intelligence, 17% to race, 15% to sexuality and financial status and 11% to religion.
It said that cyberbullies often picked their victims randomly because of something they did online, or did not like, or a comment that was made.
This sentiment correlates somewhat with the incident that led to the suicide of Mbilwi Secondary pupil Lufuno Mavhunga after a video of her being assaulted by a fellow learner went viral on social media. Another example is the video of a female warder having sex with a prison inmate.
Researcher Sipho Ngobeni said cyberbullying was particularly difficult to curb as many people did not see the harm associated with it and often drew attention to “more serious” issues to deal with instead.
Parents also had no knowledge of their children’s behaviour online, and often said it was the school’s duty to educate their offspring.
However, Ngobeni said that the task proved challenging for teachers to deal with single-handedly as he said they often did not know when to intervene, particularly in instances where the cases of cyberbullying took place away from the school.
According to the researchers, instances of cyberbullying occurred predominantly on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, with fewer cases taking place on WhatsApp, YouTube and Twitter.
Researcher Rofhiwa Netshiya said it was crucial for parents to step in when they saw signs of cyberbullying, as leaving it often led to children developing social anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
When this happened, he said children tended to stop using social media and started engaging in self-harm, skipping classes, developing eating disorders or venturing into alcohol and drug abuse.
To protect their children, parents and the schools have been urged to start educating themselves, he said.