STUDY: Bullies Outnumber Victims 4:1 On Facebook

By Jennifer Moire Comment

Only about half of all parents are aware of cyberbullying incidents involving their children, in part because more kids are accessing Facebook using chat applications and cell phones away from their family.

A joint survey by SocialShield and comScore of 2,000 parents with children between the ages of eight and 17 reveals that only about nine percent of parents reported knowing about cyberbullying involving their kids, while other data shows that as many as twice that number of children claim to be the victims of cyberbullying.

For example, a survey by the Cyberbullying Research Center found that 21 percent of children claim to have been victimized by cyberbullying, and a Pew Research Center report found that as many as 15 percent of teenagers have had “online meanness” directed at them.

One reason adults may be in the dark about bullying behavior is a result of how they use the social networking site. A more recent Pew study reported that adults enjoy their time on Facebook more than teens, and they are likely to be more detached and ignore offensive behavior online.

SocialShield offers a social networking monitoring tool for parents that works with Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Formspring and other social networks.

The SocialShield study demonstrates just how challenging it is for parents to monitor their children’s activities online given the different ways kids can access the Internet. In addition, kids may feel sensitive about reporting bullying behavior to parents, making it difficult to accurately measure how many young people are bullied. While kids used to have a respite from school yard bullies at home, the nature of social networking leaves kids more vulnerable.

Following are the highlights:

  • Kids are conducting social networking activities in different locations, with different devices and a range of media platforms, making it harder for parents to track online activity and cyberbullying;
  • Most cyberbullying behaviors take place via private chat messages, groups, closed forums, personal SMS texts and other forms of communication that cannot be viewed by any parent;
  • The data reveals that 24 percent of cyberbullying incidents occurred on cell phones, and 10 percent on chat applications;
  • While 66 percent of the parents surveyed report that their child accesses social networks from the family computer, 42 percent of parents also report that their child accesses social networks on his or her own computer, while 25 percent do so from their cell phones;
  • Eight percent of children access social networks from a tablet or handheld device, another eight percent from a friends’ computer, and five percent from a school computer.
  • Parents’ most common method of monitoring their kids is to try to befriend the child on Facebook, which 70 percent of parents say they do;

Noah Kindler, president of SocialShield, explained the data in an interview:

The study shows that there is a real disconnect between kids who get bullied and parents who know about it. Kids don’t tell their parents for many reasons and parents often don’t know what to ask. The social networking world is exciting, and despite best efforts, parenting has not kept up with the technology.

In addition to cyberbullying, Kindler points out that parents also have to be concerned with online issues like drugs, sex, violence and adults who befriend children online.

Kindler expects the company will eventually offer reputation management tools for older teens and parents based on SocialShield’s core technology. For example, if a friend writes something inappropriate on another Facebook wall, the post would be flagged by the vendor, protecting both parties.