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Survey: Many teens in Finland face cyberbullying

A poll of youngsters in Finland suggests that a majority have experienced exclusion, insults or harassment online.

Tyttö makaa sohvalla ja katselee kännykkää.
More than one in seven respondents said they had faced online bullying. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Fifteen percent of teens in Finland aged 15-17 have been the target of cyberbullying, indicates a survey published on Monday. It was commissioned by Elisa, one of the country’s largest telecoms operators. More than 60 percent of respondents said they had experienced milder harassment online.

According to the study, the most common forms of cyberbullying and harassment are exclusion from a group, spreading negative rumours and making nasty comments on others’ posts. Others include disseminating pictures and videos, making threats and making rude comments via direct message.

“Name-calling and insults often come anonymously, which is a current trend,” says Elisa’s research director, Minna Virtanen.

Snapchat, Instagram and WhatsApp are the channels where youth in Finland most typically experience online harassment, according to the poll. It was carried out by Prior Konsultointi, which questioned just over 600 youngsters aged 15-17 in July.

Criticism of looks most hurtful

The youngsters surveyed said that comments criticising one’s appearance are the most hurtful, followed by those of a sexual nature. The other most painful forms of harassment included discouraging and demeaning statements, urgings to kill oneself and death threats, the study suggests.

Virtanen notes that the most common form of cyberbullying , leaving someone out of a group, is more common among girls. Four out of 10 female respondents said they had experienced this, along with just under a quarter of male respondents.

In most cases, victims know those responsible for bullying or harassment. The perpetrator is known to the victim in 90 percent of cases where pictures, videos or rumours are spread, the poll indicates.

Even random bullying undercuts self-confidence

Even rare occasions of cyberbullying can affect young person’s wellbeing, according to the study. Respondents who had faced bullying at school or on the web were more likely to report feeling pressure about their looks, loneliness, exclusion and anxiety. Those who said they had been bullied on a monthly basis or more frequently also reported feeling happiness, trust and contentment more rarely than others, and were less likely to feel self confident.

Virtanen says that the poll shows that even random acts can have profound consequences – and that society must consider the possible ramifications of bullying and a failure to intervene in it.

“If young people have these kinds of experiences at this age,” she asks, “what about five or 10 years from now?”

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