School bullies taunt victims over the net

There's always one in every class
Written by Dan Ilett, Contributor

There's always one in every class

One in 10 teenagers has been bullied online over email or instant messenger, while nearly half of parents are unaware such activity occurs on the internet, a study from MSN and YouGov has found.

At the same time, one in 30 London school kids, the average size of a classroom, admitted bullying others online. Excluding classmates from IM conversations and spreading unpleasant rumours over the internet were the main things that upset London victims.

In the rest of the UK, however, teenagers were more likely to send abusive threats and to post false information about people on blogs.

Cam Matharu, technology programme manager at the NCH, the children's charity, told silicon.com: "It used to be that [bullying] stopped at the school gates but with new technology it's going back to the house. Technology is great for children in many ways but we need to make sure that companies work together to make it as safe as possible."

With MSN Messenger, it is possible to block contacts (although not to delete them altogether). It is also possible to report abusive messages received over MSN products - via the Virtual Global Taskforce.

A spokeswoman for MSN said: "If it's playground taunts they can't necessarily get involved but if it's a serious threat it can be reported to the local police."

The study, which questioned 500 UK teenagers, found 13-year-olds were the group most likely to be bullied. In this age group more than a quarter (28 per cent) knew someone who had been bulled online.

Matharu added: "There is an element of monitoring that needs to take place. I'd like to see ISPs give the ability to track offences. This is also about raising awareness - one reason [teenagers] don't talk about being bullied is because they think adults wouldn't understand."

Last year the NHC released a similar study that found one in five youngsters had suffered 'digital bullying' either by text messages, email or in internet chatrooms.

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