Teens subjected to mobile phone bullying

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Teens subjected to mobile phone bullying

A Queensland University of Technology study has found nearly all teens will experience some form of mobile phone bullying by the time they graduate, and boys are more likely to be exposed.

Lead researcher Associate Professor, Judy Drennan, from QUT's Faculty of Business, said the study of 218 Queensland teens found 93.6 percent had experienced at least one incident of mobile phone bullying, also known as m-bullying.

M-bullying refers to using your mobile phone to harass, menace or offend someone and can include such actions as sending obscene or pornographic images, threats to sabotage a person's reputation, or inappropriate messages of affection.

"In contrast to previous research suggesting m-bullying did not appear to be increasing, our study finds that it is more prevalent than generally perceived among senior high school students," she said.

The study investigated the occurrence of m-bullying on high school students and its impact on their self-esteem, as well as examining the differences between genders.

"It was expected that females would experience more m-bullying than males, and experience higher levels of distress. However, it was found that boys are on average, exposed to more m-bullying instances than girls," Drennan said. "With regard to distress levels, girls were significantly more likely than boys to be distressed about certain m-bullying experiences."

According to the associate professor, when it came to m-bullying, girls were more concerned about having private information about them exposed to others, people pretending to be someone they were not, and receiving exaggerated messages of affection.

"Boys on the other hand were more likely to be distressed in terms of m-bullying that sabotages their work or school reputation," she said.

The study also found boys were more than twice as likely to receive unsolicited pornographic or obscene images or messages on their phones, and almost twice as likely to receive threatening messages.

Almost 50 percent of respondents said they had been sent excessively disclosive messages and again males were more likely to experience this than females.

"It was also noted that girls are significantly more likely to keep any m-bullying messages and tell a trusted adult about what was happening," she said.

Associate Professor Drennan found that as the consumption of mobile digital technology was an integral part of the daily lives of young people, it was important to investigate the relationship with subjective well-being and to relate it to m-bullying.

"The results of this study provide an understanding of the impact of mobile devices on youth well-being. This may enable educators, consumer groups, youth counsellors, parents and government organisations to develop intervention strategies to reduce and prevent m-bullying."

Assisting with the study were Dr Mark Brown from the University of Queensland and Associate Professor Gillian Sullivan Mort from Griffith University.

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