Alarming statistics reveal widespread online bullying among secondary school students, with 40% of victims contemplating suicide

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26th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) Hong Kong secondary schools are facing a severe problem of online bullying, according to a recent survey. The study reveals that over 50% of respondents admitted to engaging in at least one form of online bullying against their friends or classmates, while approximately 20% reported being victims of online bullying. Shockingly, more than 40% of the victims admitted to having suicidal thoughts as a result of the bullying they experienced. The Queens Hill Lutheran Integrated Service Centre, responsible for conducting the investigation, emphasises the significant impact of online bullying. It highlights the power dynamics that differ from face-to-face bullying, as anyone, regardless of their abilities, can launch anonymous attacks online, often finding support from like-minded individuals, making online bullying more prevalent and challenging to address.

In January of this year, the Hong Kong Lutheran Social Service successfully interviewed 777 local secondary school students as part of their research. The survey listed 14 types of online bullying behaviour, with an average of around 50% of respondents agreeing that these actions constituted bullying. However, approximately 36% of the participants disagreed with this classification, indicating a difference in the perception and definition of bullying behaviour. Nearly 40% of respondents did not consider sharing private information through screenshots or social media as a form of online bullying. The study also discovered that 20% of the victims experienced various emotional and physical reactions to online bullying, with nearly 49% expressing anger, 48% feeling anxious, and 46% experiencing a sense of inferiority.

Yip Man-lung, the director of the Queens Hill Lutheran Integrated Service Centre, revealed that over 40% of victims hesitated to seek help due to fears that the situation would escalate further. Consequently, many victims suffer in silence, with over 40% concerned that others would not believe them or that they would struggle to find appropriate sources of support. They also worry about facing further bullying and retaliation, which can have a profoundly negative impact on their lives. Alarmingly, 40% of victims admitted to having contemplated suicide.

One fourth-year student shared her experience of being anonymously attacked on a school discussion forum and receiving fabricated anonymous messages. She expressed her fear that her friends would believe the rumours and sever ties with her, leading her to feel useless and contemplate suicide. Although she considered seeking assistance from a social worker, she faced difficulties as she didn’t have a familiar social worker to turn to. Moreover, she worried that her parents would restrict her internet access if they found out, ultimately preventing her from seeking their help.

The working group involved in the research recommends that victims seek help from third parties such as parents, teachers, schools, social workers, and law enforcement officers. They also suggest that bystanders who notice signs of potential online bullying should proactively offer support and emotional assistance to make the victims feel less isolated.