Lynley Bilby is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Girls the most vulnerable to cyberbullying attacks

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Teenage girls are far more likely to be victims of cyberbullying than any other group in New Zealand. Photo / Thinkstockphotos
Teenage girls are far more likely to be victims of cyberbullying than any other group in New Zealand. Photo / Thinkstockphotos

If you are a teenage girl you are far more likely to be the victim of cyberbullying than any other group in New Zealand.

According to latest research a quarter of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 have suffered online abuse. The majority of victims were female.

Victoria University psychology student Anna Kurek, who is analysing the extent of bullying, cyberbullying and cyber victimisation across New Zealand schools, said not only were girls more likely to be victims of cyberbullying the explosion in sexting had increased the risk of harm.

"It is twice as likely for a young girl to post or share a more provocative photo of herself than a boy, which increases the likelihood for her to fall prey to cyberbullying. If you incorporate boys into the equation - with girls trying to impress boys, or girls daring other girls to take or send photos to boys, not to mention the rise of 'sexting', and photo exchange via texting, we begin to see a much larger problem arise.

She said it also had a lot to do with "covert" bullying such as exclusion and backstabbing that was common among girls. The internet was a goldmine for this type of aggression with the bully removed from any face-to-face meanness.

Sticks'n'Stones spokeswoman Karla Sanders said results from its 2015 Bullying and Life Online yielded a similar result with females cyberbullied throughout their teen years while rates dropped off significantly for males.

"It's this idea that a lot of our young men and women feel justified in calling out the behaviour if they feel that it was not appropriate and there's a lot of talk around somebody deserving to be criticised, attacked and harassed online based on the actions that they've taken. We're seeing that from age 13 to 14 young women engaging in more risky behaviours and that behaviour continuing and people feeling like they have a right to comment on that."

Ms Kurek said the research showed both on and offline forms of bullying remained quite prevalent throughout New Zealand high schools.

The problem:

• 30 per cent of Kiwi teenagers aged 13-18 report being cyberbullied.
• NetSafe handles 1000 new incidents of cyberbullying a year.
• Nearly half of school students who experience cyberbullying keep it to themselves.
• 21 per cent admitted sending a threatening or hurtful text over the past 12 months.
• 154,000 people use the Vodafone blacklist service to block unwanted txt and pxts.
• 47 per cent of female school students had an embarrassing photo posted online.

- Sources: 2015 YouGov/Vodafone Cyberbullying study, NetSafe, Sticks n Stones
Bullying and Life Online regional survey, Vodafone, Youth Technology Use Project

Cyberbullies: the signs

• Do you find it difficult to control your emotions, lashing out and taking your feelings out on others?
• Do you feel a desire to do things to look good in front of others, even if that means doing something you know isn't nice or will hurt someone else?
• Do you take part in risky or antisocial behaviour, or rule-breaking?
• Do you spend a lot of time communicating with others online?
• Are you already engaging in 'traditional' bullying behaviours, or are you a victim of bullying yourself?
• Are you morally disengaged, and/or have a lack of empathy for others?
• Do you feel disconnected to, or have a weak attachment to your parents or caregivers?

- Rotorua Daily Post

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