File image: IOL.
Studies suggest that despite a global increase in the awareness of cyberbullying, at least a quarter of adults have still not heard of it. 

The recent Ipsos Global Advisor study was carried out in 28 countries, including South Africa, and found that even though awareness had gone up by 9 percent from 2011, the majority of parents believed that anti-bullying measures were insufficient.

The study defined cyberbullying as when a child or group of children, under the age of 18, intentionally intimidate, offend, threaten or embarrass another child or group of children, specifically through the use of information technology. South Africa was recently hit by chilling images and videos of children bullying each other which went viral on social media.

According to the study - which was conducted online and therefore represented the views of those who regularly had access to the Internet, South Africa ranked the second highest (88%) in the awareness of cyberbullying, after Sweden and Italy (91%) respectively).

It also found that at least one in three parents globally reported knowing a child in their community who had been cyberbullied. Among the countries that were surveyed, South Africa showed the highest prevalence of cyberbullying, based on over half of the parents who knew of a child their community who had been a victim off cyberbullying. The figure showed an increased of 24% from 2011.

Of the South Africans who participated in the survey, a quarter said their own children were cyberbullied. The US also saw an upturn in parents reporting their child had been cyberbullied, up to 27% more this year than in 2011. However, parents in Japan and Russia were least likely to report knowing a child in their community who had been cyberbullied.

“One explanation could be increased use of social media among youth,” said Mari Harris of Ipsos South Africa.

She said although over 60% of those that knew a child who had been bullied, they reported that it had been done by a classmate. Two-thirds of parents reported that the bullying behaviour took place on social networks.

Harris said parents had to educate themselves about the dangers of social media bullies. “We are a vulnerable society and bullies exploit this.

“Cyberbullying is no different to other forms of bullying where insecure children project these emotions onto others. Parents should be more open to talking about bullying and let kids know that unpleasant things can happen online,” Harris added.