An EU-backed study from DCU suggested that although children’s use of tech surged during Covid-19, cyberbullying did not significantly increase.
The National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre at Dublin City University (DCU), in partnership with the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, has published a study looking at how children and parents engaged with technology during Covid-19 restrictions.
The study, which involved more than 1,000 parents and children aged between 10 and 18 in Ireland, unsurprisingly revealed a surge in technology use. Nearly three-quarters (71pc) of children with access to a smartphone said they used it more than before the pandemic. Similar increases were found in the use of social media (72pc), gaming consoles (66pc) and instant messaging (65pc).
Despite children spending more time online, the study found there was no significant increase reported in cyberbullying, with less than a third (28pc) of children saying they had experienced bullying online during lockdown. Among those who were cyberbullied, 39pc said this happened more frequently during Covid-19 restrictions than before, 37pc said it happened about as frequently as before, and 23pc said it happened less frequently than before.
However, cyberbullying was found to be more prevalent within younger age groups and between males. For 66pc of children aged between 14 and 16 who experienced cyberbullying, incidents were more common on messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Viber.
‘I expected such numbers to be higher’
Speaking about the findings, DCU researcher Dr Tijana Milosevic said: “While we definitely need to be careful about cyberbullying and ensure that every child who experiences it received adequate help, especially as children’s lives become ever more dependent on digital technology, these numbers may not be as alarming as we might have expected them to be.”
Parents taking part in the study said that technology had a positive impact on family life during Covid restrictions, with 86pc saying it helped maintain contact with family and friends and 61pc saying it helped the family be more creative at home.
However, 57pc expressed concerns over their children’s education as a result of the pandemic, with 42pc reporting fears of cyberbullying and 62pc raising concerns about their children’s mental health.
“Less than half of parents (41pc) agreed with the statement that their family was experiencing fatigue from overuse of digital technology,” Milosevic added. “Reading media reports during lockdown, I expected such numbers to be higher. It was also interesting to see changes in parental mediation.”