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1 in 3 teens in Singapore have experienced cyberbullying: McAfee

Of those who said they were cyberbullied, the majority cited appearance and academic achievements as the reasons for being targeted, according to McAfee.

SINGAPORE: More than one-third of Singaporean youths have experienced cyberbullying - whether they witnessed cyberbullying in action, are the victims of it, or are the ones who do the bullying online - according to a study by McAfee released on Tuesday (Sep 2).

The 2014 Teens and the Screen study found that of the 34.6 per cent of youths, or 177, who indicated that they had experienced cyberbullying, 61 per cent of them witnessed the act done on others.

Additionally, 29.4 per cent, or 52 youths, said they have bullied others online while 27.7 per cent, or 49 youths, said they have been bullied online. A public relations representative for McAfee said there are overlaps in the findings, given that someone who has been cyberbullied could have also bullied someone else.

"Of those who responded that they were cyberbullied, the majority cited that it was due to appearance and academic achievements," McAfee said in its press release of the study. "Compared to other countries, religion, race or sexuality play a less significant role in Singapore."

The study polled 512 young men and women aged 13 to 18, and it was split evenly among age and gender. The interviews were conducted from Jun 25 to Jul 11 this year, McAfee stated.

'SIGNIFICANT' IMPACT OF CYBERBULLYING

Of those who witnessed cyberbullying, 43 per cent said victims became defensive or angry while 57 per cent said the victims deleted their social media accounts. The survey also found that 41 per cent of youths would not know what to do if they were harassed or bullied online.

Mr Chong EeJay, Assistant Manager at TOUCH Cyber Wellness, said: "Bystanders who witnessed cyberbullying often do not speak up as well because they do not know how to help, or they do not want to get involved due to apathy or fear that the bullies might turn their attention onto them.

"Bystanders and victims should feel empowered in speaking up so that cyberbullying does not become normalised. Standing up against cyberbullying should be encouraged as a new norm.”

Online bullying also paves the way for real-life confrontations, as the study showed that 44 per cent of the youths have been involved in an argument because of something posted on social media. A further 13 per cent said the original online altercation led to a physical fight.

Commenting on the findings, Mr David Freer, Vice President of Asia Pacific Consumer business at McAfee, part of Intel Security, said: "Parents should have an open discussion with their children so they will be better equipped to keep themselves safe online. The experience of cyberbullying or being cyberbullied can have a deep and lasting effect on a child’s identity and life offline.” 

Parents may find it difficult to monitor their children's online behaviour though, with 90 per cent of children surveyed saying they purposely take action to hide their online behaviour from parents:

This is why McAfee suggests the following tips for parents to help educate their children:

  1. Connect with your kids
    Talk to them about the risks of being online and make sure the communication lines are always open

  2. Learn their technology
    Take the time to research the various devices your kids use; you want to know more about their devices than they do

  3. Get social
    Stay knowledgeable about the newest and latest social networks. Join whatever networks or sites your kids are into so you understand how it all works

  4. Reputation management
    Make sure your kids are aware that anything they post online is permanent

  5. Stay calm
    If your children approach you with an online problem, don't overreact. Deal with it calmly and do no threaten to take devices away or they may not feel confident about seeking your help again

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