UK inquiry finds cyber bullying 'inescapable'

Social media companies are being accused of putting children's mental health at risk by not doing enough to tackle cyber bullying.

A new inquiry in the UK has found cyber bullying is "inescapable", and pushes some to the verge of suicide.

The inquiry by the Children's Society found:

  • Forty-seven percent of children and young people have fallen victim to cyber bullying.
  • Thirty-eight percent felt it had a negative impact on how they feel about themselves.
  • One in 10 admitted to logging on every night after midnight.

The report is calling on social media companies and the UK government to tackle cyber-bullying.

NetSafe chief executive Martin Cocker says there are similar concerns in New Zealand.

"Generally we'd like to see everybody do more and certainly social media companies have a key role to play," he said.

"They provide a lot of the infrastructure and tools that young people use to stay safe, we all use to stay safe, so the greater investment they make in that the easier it is for the rest of us to provide our aspects of safety."

One New Zealand school is taking its own a stand. Kowhai Intermediate School has an 'off at the gate' policy.

"At intermediate age they're adolescents and we think that they're not ready really to understand the pitfalls of social media," says Board of Trustees chair, Wade Gillooly

Phones are turned off before children enter the school, then go into a box.  They don't get them back until the end of the day.

And the school's device advice extends to outside of the classroom too. The encourage parents to keep computers and devices in public areas. To also set rules on when devices can be used. Devices should be turned off at night and kept by parents. 

It's also strongly recommended that students are not allowed social media accounts and parents are encouraged to talk to their children about what they view.

It's a voluntary policy which both parents and pupils have been invited to join, 84 percent have signed up and a further 10 percent have put in place their own regulations.

"There's a lot of positive things to like about social media of course but we want our kids to be playing in the playground to have stimulating discussions with one another, personally not over a digital format," says Mr Gillooly.

In the classroom they are given lessons on social media, so when they are old enough to have an account, they're better equipped to handle it.

Enabling children to be children, rather than cyber bully victims.