Unisa’s Youth Research Unit (YRU), which operates under the Communication and Behavioural Research Division of the Bureau of Market Research (BMR), conducted a survey on the prevalence rates of bullying among a representative learners sample of 17 secondary schools in Gauteng. Using descriptive analysis, key findings were revealed.
In summary, the research findings demonstrate that the traditional forms of bullying (physical and emotional bullying) are prevalent among learners. Notably, emotional bullying is most prevalent (66.7%) among secondary school learners followed by cyberbullying (31.2%), which is on the increase when compared to the 2012 research findings (16.9%).
The prevalence rate of cyberbullying demonstrates the uptake of the use of Information and Communication Technology by children in South Africa. Various risk factors that contribute to cyberbullying emerged from the research findings. These include sharing of personal information (passwords) with friends met off/online. This risky behaviour correlates with a finding where learners who were victims of cyberbullying reported that their passwords were stolen and later experienced their social network profiles changed and new social networking sites set up on their behalf without their knowledge.
The research highlights the concerns regarding the seriousness of the emotional impact of bullying on victims. In this regard, almost half of bullied learners (46.6%) reported that bullying elicited emotions of sadness. In contrast, approximately 42.8% of learners experienced feelings of anger, embarrassment (35.4%), helpless and powerless (33.5%), frustrated (30.5%), depressed (30.5%), and a quarter (25.5%) felt isolated and lonely as a result bullying.
Considering the far-reaching emotional impact of bullying on victims, it is imperative for strategic interventions that seek to deal with bullying to be reviewed and strengthened based on scientific research findings.
To enrich the findings emerging from this study, a more detailed study to gain in-depth insight into the impact of bullying, focusing specifically on cyberbullying is required.
Bullying is a phenomenon that affects the broader society; therefore, it takes collective, concerted and sustained efforts to deal with bullying. These stakeholders include parents and caregivers, schools and educators, learners, Internet service providers, and policy makers.
*Submitted by Youth Research Unit