Parents fear online body image bullies above all others

One in five admit their child has received cruel comments online

Updated: 

Cyberbullying Victim

A survey of 2,000 parents of children aged between nine and 16 has found that nearly seven out of 10 (68%) said their top concern on the issue of cyberbullying was their children being targeted over their physical appearance, followed by popularity (52%) and sexism (26%).

The survey found 10% more boys had been bullied over their body image than girls (17.4% versus 15.7%) – reinforcing that boys are under just as much pressure to look good online.Meanwhile the average age the child began to be bullied over their physical appearance was just 11.

Overall, 65% of parents said they were most concerned about their children being bullied via social media compared to 46% face-to-face.

Being bullied over social media appeared to be a bigger concern for parents of girls than boys, with online gaming more of a concern for parents of boys than girls.

Internet Matters is hoping the figures will encourage parents in starting a conversation with their children about cyberbullying, as part of its cyberbullying campaign launched this week, supported by psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos.

It has been launched to coincide with the national school half-term period, when parents can make time to learn about the issues and engage their children.

Dr. Papadopoulos said that victims of cyberbullying can find it hard to open up to their parents. "Cyberbullying is challenging much of the accepted wisdom when it comes to how people think children interact with each other."

"The findings of this survey show that when it comes to body image and issues relating to physical appearance, boys can be just as much of a target as girls, who may have previously been thought to be more image conscious. Findings such as these restate the need for parents to engage with their children on the issue of cyberbullying, which can often go on out of sight of adults.

"Sometimes children don't want to talk about what is happening to them online. They may feel helpless or worry their parents will take away their phones or ban them from using tech. But it's vital that parents learn how to engage with their children in a positive and reassuring way to open a dialogue channel which youngsters can feel reassured, not intimidated by."