Cyberbullying a problem around the globe: poll

NEW YORK (Reuters) - More than 10 percent of parents around the world say their child has been cyberbullied and nearly one-fourth know a youngster who has been a victim, according to a new Ipsos/Reuters poll.

Makoto, who requested that his last name not be used, poses for a photograph as he looks at his cell phone which became an instrument of mental torture that nearly drove him to suicide when he was a high school student in Tokyo October 22, 2007. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

And more than three-quarters of people questioned in the global survey thought cyberbullying differed from other types of harassment and warranted special attention and efforts from parents and schools.

“The data clearly shows an appetite among global citizens for a targeted response to cyberbullying,” said Keren Gottfried, of the global research firm Ipsos, which conducted the poll.

But, she added, whether or not schools live up to this mandate is in the hands of educators.

The online poll of more than 18,000 adults in 24 countries, 6,500 of whom were parents, showed the most widely reported vehicle for cyberbullying was social networking sites likes Facebook, which were cited by 60 percent.

Mobile devices and online chat rooms were a distant second and third, each around 40 percent.

While the report showed that awareness of cyberbullying was relatively high, with two-thirds saying they heard, read or had seen information on the phenomenon, cultural and geographic differences abounded.

In Indonesia, 91 percent said they knew about cyberbullying, in which a child, group of children or younger teen intentionally intimidates, threatens or embarrasses another child or group through the use of information technology such as social media or mobile devices.

Australia followed at 87 percent, while Poland and Sweden trailed slightly behind. But only 29 percent in Saudi Arabia, and 35 percent in Russia, had heard of cyberbullying.

In the United States, where cases of cyberbullying have been widely reported to have been linked to teen-age suicides, the figure was 82 percent.

Gottfried described the survey as the first global study of its kind and a benchmark to where assessments of cyberbullying vary.

“The key to this study is that it measures parental awareness of cyberbullying, not actual rates of the behavior,” she said. “While we can’t speculate on what actually happens, it is quite possible that the proportion of children actually being cyberbullied is in fact understated, since we are speaking with the parents, not the kids.”

In India 32 percent of parents said their child had experienced cyberbullying, followed by 20 percent in Brazil and 18 percent in Canada and Saudi Arabia and 15 percent in the United States.

The highest incidence of people knowing of a child in the community being targeted was in Indonesia, with 53 percent. But only 14 percent there said their child had been cyberbullied -- less than in Canada, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Overall, parents in France and Spain reported some of the lowest incidence of cyberbullying either of their own child or one in their community.

Gottfried said that future studies could show whether there was a trend toward greater awareness of cyberbullying, and shed some light on what affects parental awareness.

The complete list of results and countries can be found at

Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Patricia Reaney; For the latest Reuters lifestyle news see: