A new survey by Action for Children found that nearly 60% of young people said that they bullied others via the internet in order to fit in with a certain social group.
Of the almost 2,000 eight to seventeen year olds that responded, 40% said that they were trying to avoid being targeted themselves.
Action for Children’s Head of Child Protection, Deanna Neilson, said the findings were “shocking.”
“Online bullying is so prevalent, but we must not lose sight of the fact that many of these children bully others because of something going wrong in their own lives, or being driven to it through fear of being bullied or socially shunned themselves.
“Low self-esteem, stress at school or being victimised themselves by peers or adults are all reasons a child might act out on others.
“It’s important for parents to ask children about the day they’ve had online, just as they ask about the day they’ve had at school – whether your child is being bullied or bullying others, the problem, and any potentially more severe issues surrounding it, must be addressed,” she added.
The survey also found that nearly 50% of children did not tell anyone when they read or saw something online that made them feel uncomfortable.
One in five cited fear of what a bully might do to them as the reason for choosing not report the behaviour, while one in seven said they worried they would get in trouble if they spoke out.
Of those who did talk to somebody, nearly 65% went to their parents.
“Parents need to be open to discussions about children’s worries online, and the best way to make yourself approachable is to talk to them about their activity at all times – not just when you’re concerned,” Ms Neilson said.
Action for Children make a number of recommendations for parents on how to protect their children online including discussing and agreeing parameters before your child joins a social networking site, checking minimum age requirements and ensuring your child has a ‘private’ profile.
They also encourage discussing the potential dangers of sharing personal data, reiterating that the same rules about bullying and stranger danger apply online as they do in public places and at school, and ensuring that young people know how to report and block people.
Children should also be assured, the charity suggests, that they can approach their parents about anything that upsets or worries them online.