Teenagers who spend over two hours a day on social network sites are more likely to become victims of cyberbullying, a study has found.
The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, examined data from several European countries.
Researchers at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece found that school children in Romania, Germany and Poland were more likely to experience cyberbullying, such as aggressive and threatening messages, spreading rumours and sharing private, inappropriate or humiliating information, if they used social network sites for more than 2 hours a week day.
"This is an important finding which challenges past research suggesting that simply having, rather than excessive use of, a social network site profile increases the risk of becoming a victim of cyberbullying," said Artemis Tsitsika, a professor at University of Athens.
The researchers found that a relatively high proportion of school children in Romania (37.3 per cent), Greece (26.8 per cent), Germany (24.3 per cent) and Poland (21.5 per cent) have been bullied online whereas a fewer proportion experience cyberbullying in the Netherlands (15.5 per cent), Iceland (13.5 per cent) and Spain (13.3 per cent).
"We found multiple factors, in addition to the time spent on social media, which may impact cyberbullying frequency and explain the differences between countries," Tsitsika said.
"In Greece and Romania higher cyberbullying may be due to a lack of digital literacy and relevant legislation, as well as sudden rise of social media use and a large technological gap between parents and the younger generation," he said.
"Promotion of internet safety strategies and teaching digital skills in education may contribute to lower rates of cyberbullying in the Netherlands," he added.
"In all cases higher daily use with no monitoring and digital literacy background may lead to teenagers posting private information and meeting strangers online," he said.
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