Kids to Parents: We’re Worried About Online Bullying

We’ve all heard the horrific tales: teasing, meanness or bullying that starts on the playground or at school follows kids home only to continue on mobile and gaming devices and on social networks.  Severe cases, though few in number, drive some to extremes, and it’s these instances that make headlines. No wonder kids around the world are worried they’ll be bullied online.

To better understand the issue globally, Microsoft commissioned and today releases survey results of a range of online behaviors among youth – from “meanness” (least severe) to online bullying or cruelty (most severe), and everything in between. Data show 54 percent of children age eight to 17 in 25 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Morocco, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Spain, Singapore, Turkey, UAE, the United Kingdom and the U.S.) express concern that they will be bullied online; four in 10 say someone was mean to them online, and nearly one-quarter (24 percent) admit to having bullied someone else online at one time or another.      

What may be termed bullying can vary between cultures and even among individuals. Additionally, online or “cyber” bullying is not a term recognized or acknowledged worldwide. As a result, our study posed questions about online bullying in terms of children’s online experiences (i.e., being called mean names, being teased, etc.), and from their direct perspective.

Because they’re worried about being bullied online, kids want parents and trusted adults involved. Less than a third (29 percent) said parents have talked to them about poor online behavior, and they failed to pinpoint one common step parents took to help address the problem. In fact, only 5 percent said parents engage with schools when online bullying happens.

Kids need to know that adults can and will help. And, parents and educators need to understand that what they may see as bullying, kids may just refer to as “drama.” But, they should still make themselves available and offer support. To assist adults in recognizing and addressing the issue, Microsoft has created some new resources: an interactive online bullying quiz , our Digital Citizenship in Action Toolkit, as well as updates to our website: www.microsoft.com/security

Whatever the issue facing youth online, Microsoft’s primary piece of guidance stands: parents, trusted adults, teachers, coaches and counselors need to keep the lines of communication open.

About the Author

Chief Online Safety Officer, Microsoft

Jacqueline F. Beauchere is the Chief Online Safety Officer at Microsoft. In this role, Ms. Beauchere is responsible for all aspects of Microsoft’s online safety strategy, including cross-company policy creation and implementation, influence over consumer safety features and functionality and communications to and engagement with a variety of external audiences. She also currently serves as the vice chair for the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) Board of Directors. Ms. Beauchere has spent almost 14 years at Microsoft leading various groups and efforts that evangelize the company's commitment to help create a safer, more trusted Internet experience for people of all ages and abilities. Before joining Microsoft in December 1999, Ms. Beauchere was an attorney in private practice in New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C. A second-career lawyer, she spent 12 years as a real-time financial news correspondent and Editor in Charge, most recently with Reuters America Inc. in New York.