The cost of cyberbulling in New Zealand is costing individuals, communities and support organisations $444 million a year, a new report reveals.

But it's friends and families who are bearing the brunt of the cost - $366 million in fact - to support loved ones who have been bullied online.

The report, carried out by Sense Partners on behalf of Netsafe and released today , is the first attempt to calculate the cost of the issue.

One in 10 of the 1000 adult New Zealanders who took part in a survey conducted as part of the study said they were victims of cyberbullying.


Of those, 31 per cent did not seek help.

That finding shocked economist ,Shamubeel Eaqub who led the research.

"I think there's a really big, big missing piece there that we have to work really hard to make sure that people know where to get help and to ask for help," he told the Herald.

Eaqub said there clearly needed to be a more aggressive approach to tackling the issue.

"Online use is prevalent across all age groups now.

"So even when you go to preschool, kids are watching iPads at home so online access is available quite pervasively."

He said there needed to be more investment allocated to educate primary and secondary schools in particular about the dangers of cyberbullying and how to get help.

Eaqub hoped that putting a price on the problem would help.


"Because until there's a dollar figure, somehow it's hard to talk across communities and get government and agencies interested."

Eaqub put the cost to individuals at $78m per year, with $3m of that being the cost of lives lost because of cyberbullying.

"Any loss of life is a tragic event but to have it happen with cyberbullying gives us a sense of how costly that is," he said.

The biggest portion of the cost, $347m, was borne by friends and family by way of loss of income and time.

The other $19m was made up largely of teachers and counsellors ($11m), hotlines ($2m) police ($2m) and education and justice, including Netsafe's funding, ($4m).

Netsafe's chief executive officer Martin Cocker found the "massive" cost on families and friends particularly difficult to hear about.

"That means that's the place where we should invest our energy . . . even small improvements [there] would be very significant overall."

Aside from that though, he said "nothing shocks us anymore about cyberbullying".

He said Netsafe received about 60 cases relating to cyberbullying each week.

"We see cyberbullying of all sorts here. Everything from repeated harassment, release of private images and video, through to fake websites about them or claims about them being something or not being something."

Cocker said he didn't know what the economic cost of the problem would be prior to the report - just how much was being put in to combat the issue.

"We put millions of dollars into Netsafe and millions of dollars into police . . . but it turns out they were relatively small investments compared to the total cost."

The research did not look at the long-term cost of cyberbullying on mental health, physical health and productivity - which Eaqub said would "significantly" increase the cost.

Eaqub would be presenting the full findings of the report at The Crossroads 2018
Trans-Tasman Online Safety Conference today in Auckland.

The conference is co-hosted by Netsafe and the Australian Office of the e-Safety Commissioner to bring together online safety professionals and others working in online safety related fields.

Lizzie Marvelly: 'Don't suffer alone'

Columnist, blogger and singer Lizzie Marvelly has had to deal with cyberbullying. Photo / File
Columnist, blogger and singer Lizzie Marvelly has had to deal with cyberbullying. Photo / File

Musician and Herald columnist Lizzie Marvelly has a long and rocky history on the receiving end of cyberbullying and was taken by surprise when she first experienced it.

She said it initially started when she was a full-time musician but it was more to do with her appearance rather than being related to opinion.

It wasn't until she began speaking out more on social media when she started to experience push back from members of the public.

"It was never really about the issue I was talking about and the type of backlash was always inevitably personal," she said.

"When I started writing for the Herald it became like a tidal wave, it kind of came out of nowhere and took me very much by surprise.

Marvelly, who recognises herself as a "resilient person", said her self-esteem took a hit following tirades of abuse online.

The constant negativity from the attacks started filtering into other area of her life and lingered in the background.

"When you are facing a barrage of horrible nastiness, you can't really help but be affected," she said.

"There will be people who say I don't read or think about it but I'm pretty sure anyone who has been abused has seen it.

"It's very difficult to be a machine and not have any feelings around it - it did have an impact on me."

Marvelly said her friends and family were really helpful when she told them about the cyberbullying she received and encouraged others to speak out.

A psychologist was also helpful, she said, in finding ways to deal with the abuse because it had a real impact on mental health.

When asked what advice she'd offer to others who are experiencing similar abuse her message was simple: "Don't suffer alone".

"It can be very isolated being attacked on social media so reach out to people in the real world and potentially reach out privately online.

"If you see something happening to someone online and step in it can be very helpful as well. And don't be afraid to block and mute and ban, it's not worth it," Marvelly said.