New research from University of New South Wales suggests cyberbullies are more likely to target women than men and are more prevalent on university campuses.
Key points:A new survey shows a significant difference in the behaviours of cyber-bullies and people with normal mental healthAs a result, cyber-bully behaviour is more prevalent at university campuses, a new study has foundA study of more than 100 university students in New South Walsin found cyber-aggressive behaviour was more prevalent among students with normal, high-functioning mental health and was less prevalent in those with high-risk personality traits.
The research was conducted by the University of NSW’s Cyberbullying Research Centre, the National College of Psychiatrists and the University’s School of Psychology.
The study found cyberbullied students were more likely than their non-bipolar counterparts to display extreme levels of emotional distress and were more inclined to use social distancing tactics, such as avoiding social events, avoiding contact with others, or avoiding social media.
“It’s not surprising that cyberbully behaviour is disproportionately seen by females as it is also seen as more distancing and less nurturing, which can make it harder for women to feel comfortable around peers and in social settings,” Dr Michael O’Donovan, the Centre’s senior research fellow, said.
“If we think of cyber bullying as a form of social distancer, it’s a really important step to acknowledge that women can be cyberbullished too.”
The findings were based on the study’s online survey of morethan 100 university and non-university students in the state.
Dr O’Connor said the research revealed the high rates of cyberticism among university students.
“There’s a very high proportion of university students that have an extreme amount of cyber aggression,” he said.
Dr Kevin Sacks, from the University Health and Medical Research Council, said the findings confirmed the need for a range of intervention programs to help students cope with cyberbulliness.
“These young people are at risk of experiencing cyberbullistic behaviour because they are young and inexperienced and are not equipped with the coping skills needed to deal with the stress and anxiety,” he told the ABC.
“We are seeing an increase in the amount of mental health issues that are occurring in this age group, particularly with regard to depression and anxiety.”
He said the most effective interventions for cyberbullers would be to educate young people about the symptoms of cyberattacks, such how to recognise them, how to deal and what to do.
“To be clear, cyberbulling is not a gender-specific issue, so we do not need to be focusing on male and female students,” Dr Sacks said.
In NSW, the State Government has launched a national cyberbullie strategy.
The National Cyberbulling Strategy aims to develop a national strategy to address cyberbullish behaviour, including training and resources for schools and schools staff.