A high rate of cyber bullying in the country makes children as vulnerable online as they are offline

Children in India reported the third highest online bullying rate, after China and Singapore, among the 25 countries surveyed under a recently commissioned project by Microsoft Corporation to understand the global pervasiveness of online bullying.

The survey report released this week spoke to 7,600 children between the age group of 8-17 years. “What is seen as cyber bullying can vary between different cultures, and even among different individuals. In addition, cyber bullying, as a term, is not recognised worldwide. To address this, the study explored the issue by asking children about negative experiences they’ve had online — from their point of view (i.e., being called mean names, being teased, etc.). While such experiences may not be viewed as bullying by all who experience it, these behaviours may be considered by some as having potentially adverse effects,” noted the report.

In India the survey indicated that 22 per cent children reported mean/unfriendly treatment, 29 per cent were made fun of or teased and 25 per cent were called mean names.

In India, the survey noted, 70 per cent children said that they know a lot or something about online bullying, while 79 per cent were very or somewhat worried about the phenomenon. Seventy-seven per cent reported being bullied online and/or offline. “India is one of the few countries where the rates of online and offline bullying were equal,” the survey said.

Stating that protecting children from online bullying is a shared responsibility Jacqueline Beauchere, director of Trustworthy Computing a division of Microsoft Corporation said, “Everyone plays a role: parents, educators, school counsellors, coaches, online safety advocates, industry, law enforcement, government and children themselves.”

Further, the report indicated that 50 per cent of the children who participated in the survey admitted to bullying someone online, 52 per cent to bullying someone offline.

While the survey noted extensive online bullying, according to the children who participated in the study 37 per cent of parents asked them if they’ve been bullied online, 39 per cent talked about online risks with them and 45 per cent of parents taught them online manners.

Interestingly, the survey showed that the girls and boys were equally likely to be bullied online (53 per cent against 52 per cent), but girls were more likely to be bullied offline (61 per cent against 48 per cent) than boys. Girls and boys were equally worried (79 per cent against 80 per cent) about online bullying.

``Boys, however, claim greater knowledge of online bullying than girls (78 per cent against 60 per cent). Online bullying is higher for children in the 8-12 year age group than those who are13-17 years old.

The youth survey also indicated that the type of help parents give them differs by age and gender. “In general, we found that girls who are 8-12 years are more likely to be taught and talked to about online bullying than boys. Girls are more likely than boys to be talked to about the risks and they are more likely to receive more help from parents than boys.

Also girls are more likely than boys to report that their school has no formal policies or education programmes in place to discourage and create awareness about cyber bullying,” noted the report.