Digital bullying, on the rise among young people around the world, needs to be combated, says a Norwegian researcher.
Tove Flack, a research fellow at the University of Stavanger in Norway, says surveys indicate that two out of three children experienced bullying via the Internet or mobile phones on a regular basis, while twice as many girls as boys reported having being bullied digitally.
The researcher has extensive experience in counselling work in anti-bullying, which includes the centre's program 'zero', where zero tolerance for bullying and active involvements are important concepts.
Flack said her counselling experience and research showed that for many victims cyber bullying is only one of several ways to harass them. This may mean that they never have any protected place.
"At school, they are left out or maligned and when they come home they receive insults on mobile phones and Net. Access to social media in recent years has unfortunately given us some new bullying tools," she said.
"Digital bullying can result in a person being frozen out by having that individual deleted from Facebook or from the contact list on one's mobile or even form a hate group," she added.
Meanwhile, the threshold to bully one another through social media might possibly be lower than to bully someone in more traditional ways.
Flack said many bullies seem unaware of how hurtful bullying can be or that they could be held accountable for their actions.
"It is important to have zero tolerance for bullying via the Internet in the same way as there should be zero tolerance for all types of harassment," she said.
A survey conducted by TNS Gallup showed that social networking, SMS and instant messaging are the most widely used bully channels.
Flack said that schools must take steps to gain control of bullying situations.
"To detect traditional forms of bullying, schools must develop their ability to see and understand what is happening in communication and interaction between pupils. When it comes to cyber-bullying, special strategies are required," she said.
"They should take up the netiquette rules at an early stage and inform about the dangers. That should of course also parents do," she added