Many schools are failing to take cyberbullying as seriously as they should, according to the director of Scotland's anti-bullying service.
Brian Donnelly, the head of Respectme, voiced his concerns as its survey of 3,944 young people aged eight to 19 showed 16 per cent had been cyberbullied, which typically involved the sending of threatening messages by text or through the internet.
The record of schools in dealing with this form of bullying was "patchy", Mr Donnelly said. In some cases, pupils' concerns were not acted upon at all, because the bullying was deemed not to have taken place on school premises.
"If a child invests in you as a teacher and says, `I'm scared', you should respond to that," he said.
Most young people who were bullied said it was worse seeing messages written down than experiencing them verbally.
Those who had been cyberbullied were more likely to tell a parent, carer or friend before a teacher. Their reluctance to raise the issue with teachers sometimes stemmed from the fear their mobile phone or laptop would be taken away, Mr Donnelly said.
The research, carried out by Respectme last month, was prompted largely by growing interest from teachers: the anti-bullying organisation had initially planned three or four cyberbullying training events in 2010-11, but is now on course to have run 17 by the end of the year.
The big message Respectme wants adults to take away from its survey is that the internet is not a thing, but a place; they should have the same level of concern about safety there as they would have for any other place a child was visiting.
But Mr Donnelly is wary of creating moral panic.
Although the problem did appear to be on the rise, there was a danger of it being blown out of proportion, he said: 80 per cent of youngsters who responded to the survey said they "always" or "sometimes" felt safe online.
Respectme launched its campaign, "She's still going somewhere .", on Monday to mark the start of National Anti-Bullying Week. A video to reinforce the message that the internet is "just another place children go to" is on: www.youtube.comrespectmescotland
FINDINGS FROM THE RESPECTME SURVEY
- 25 per cent worry about cyberbullying.
- 16 per cent say they have been cyberbullied; in 63 per cent of these cases, they knew the identity of the bully.
- 55 per cent use the internet every day.
- 53 per cent are online for 1-2 hours per day, 8 per cent for about 5 hours.
- The most common online places young people go to are Facebook (68 per cent), followed by BlackBerry Messenger (28 per cent).