The rate at which teenagers are being bullied is skyrocketing thanks to the shiny sleek object forever glued to their hand.

Smartphones are a necessity for teenagers - if you don't have one, you're the black sheep in the imaginary sphere that is popularity.

Detective Sergeant Heath Jones is among a group of Hawke's Bay police officers assisting schools with anti-bullying programmes, which are constantly moulded and upgraded due to the ever-changing movement of social-media.

Teens, particularly girls, hide behind their screens, sharing abusive words, photos and even videos, which are then embedded into cyberspace and spread like a virus, often causing havoc for their targets, who, in return cannot remove the material.

Advertisement

The content can be shared, saved to a device, manipulated and changed even further, causing a nightmare for victims, schools and parents.

"We see a lot of bullying among girls," Jones says.

"We held a focal point session with students among 11- and 12-year-olds. We covered a few topics and every girl had an example of bullying and a couple said bullying occurs because other girls are bored."

"So they start a bit of drama, they'll start something nasty, and I mean nasty. It's mindboggling."

After speaking to two other community constables, he says boys also experience it just as much as girls.

Jones blames the rise of social media and lack of boundaries around the digital era.

"People put their entire lives on social media. Like a book. It's unbelievable."

"I would agree that it's a big problem, in some schools it's out of control, parents need to take more responsibility.

Advertisement

"They need to realise and identify what is healthy and unhealthy when it comes to social media and set strong boundaries."

Jones says it's essential that parents keep up to date with social media norms, educate their children about appropriate material and encourage them to have time away from their phones.

"Some leave it too late, someone's daughter would have been using social media for about five years, the parents then find out the worst, whether it be posting inappropriate material or something more, and by the time they want to get involved it's too late. It can be a big battle."

Director of Education & Engagement at Netsafe, Sean Lyons, says bullying is an ongoing issue which should be addressed by not only parents and schools, but the entire community.

"Tackling online bullying and creating a safe environment for young people is a school community-wide job and it's important that schools, parents and whānau work together to help young people learn how to interact respectfully in the online space.

"To help schools and parents navigate keeping young people safe online, Netsafe has recently launched the Netsafe Schools Programme.

Parents and whānau with children at a Netsafe School can be sure that the school has a strong commitment to online safety and measures in place to address online bullying.

"We also encourage parents to talk frequently with their children about online bullying and being respectful online, and have guides and tips available at www.netsafe.org.nz."

"This year there have been a number of priorities for Hawke's Bay Police with schools which include cyber safety which includes cyber bullying"

Netsafe statistics reveal, overall, 7 in 10 teens in New Zealand have experienced at least one type of unwanted digital communication in the past year.

Not all these resulted in harm or distress.

Lyons says teenagers' experiences of unwanted digital communications are most commonly instigated by a friend or someone they do not know.

In just over a quarter of cases (27%), an unwanted digital communication was related to a wider issue happening offline.

He says experiences of distress and harm are 'gendered'.

"Girls not only were more likely to experience an unwanted digital communication but also to be emotionally affected and unable to carry on with daily activities because of it."