Four in 10 kids could be online bullying victims

Up to four out of 10 teens may have experienced bullying on the internet in some way, an expert has warned.University of Vienna project assistant Margarita Köhl said today (Thurs) various recent studies suggest that 20 to 40 per cent of Austrian children and teenagers have made experiences with so-called cyber bullying. Köhl pointed out that, while some have become victims themselves, others have friends who have experienced this form of mobbing.The new media expert also explained that many digital natives – people who are used to extensive computer and internet usage from an early age – lacked social skills.Köhl said a lot of people surfing the internet and posting messages, pictures and videos on social network sites like Facebook were unaware what kind of consequences their actions may have.Around 45 per cent of Austrians registered on Facebook, Twitter and similar websites are younger than 20, according to the Federal Crime Office’s (BK) Vienna department.Viennese police official August Baumühlner said he opposed suggestions to ban young people from using Facebook and other social media networks. Such measures – issued by a rising number of parents – make these internet portals only more interesting for kids, he claimed.The federal interior ministry said recently that police in Austria were informed about nearly 1,500 cases of potential cyber crimes like bullying and fraud in 2010, up from just 38 reported incidents in the previous year.Austria has seen an intense public discussions on how to react to the apparent increase of cyber bullying.Barbara Brüning, a leading German education researcher, said at a platform discussion in Vienna last June that she would support the introduction of a school subject in which kids could be made aware of the World Wide Web’s dangers.”Many parents are overburdened with the issue, so we must get teachers to become experts in the matter,” Brüning appealed.Dozens of schools across Austria have meanwhile decided to ban Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites.Recent research found that a vast majority of 83 per cent of Austrians aged between six and 14 go online everyday.