Internet bullying has become a serious problem for minors and has a profound impact on its victims, with some even considering suicide, the Children’s Welfare League Foundation said as it called for more public attention to the issue.
“Bullying on the Internet has become a serious problem as more and more children now regularly use the Internet and establish their interpersonal network online,” Children’s Welfare League Foundation research and development director Chiu Ching-hui (邱靖惠) told a press conference in Taipei to release the results of its survey.
“If you think the harm caused in the virtual world stays there, you’re wrong, because it also has an impact on the victim’s real life,” Chiu said.
The survey showed that “as many as 57.7 percent of Internet bullying victims feel upset even after leaving the virtual world and that among them, 12.1 percent said that they had thought of committing suicide after suffering from acts of bullying on the Internet,” Chiu added.
The emotional reaction to online bullying has intensified as an increasing number of children become heavily dependent on the Internet, she said.
The Internet has become for them not only a tool or a source of information, but also the place where they make friends and establish connections to the world, Chiu said.
In the survey conducted last month, with more than 1,500 valid samples collected from Internet users between the ages of 10 and 18, acts of “Internet bullying” include criticizing others, spreading rumors about certain people and posting malicious information or pictures about someone on the Internet.
The survey found that as many as 40.7 percent of respondents said they had shown support for malicious posts on social networking Web sites, while 18.1 percent said they had spread malicious messages about others anonymously — including 4.5 percent who said they had spread false rumors about people over the Internet as a prank or to attack someone.
“We found in the survey that 34.2 percent of victims of bullying in real life also get bullied online — and this figure is 3.7 times more than those who are not bullied in real life,” Chiu said.
“On the other hand, we’ve also found that people who are bullied in the real world are more likely to become perpetrators in Internet bullying incidents,” she said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏), who was the foundation’s executive director before being elected a lawmaker, said many cases of Internet bullying can be classified as criminal offenses because they either violate a person’s privacy or involve acts of slander.
“If you’re a victim, you should try to tell your parents or teacher. We also urge the government to make more of an effort to protect people’s rights on the Internet,” Wang said.
“As a lawmaker, I will continue to follow these developments on this issue and propose amendments accordingly,” she added.