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Germany's Largest Study on Cyberlife

How do children and adolescents cope with cyberbullying? How often are they victims, and how often perpetrators? What preventive measures are taken by parents and schools? These were just some of the questions addressed by the most extensive study on cyberbullying conducted in Germany to date. ARAG SE provided support for the survey of over 10,000 parents, teachers and students from November 2012 to February 2013. The goal of the study was to obtain more precise information on the phenomena of cyberbullying and violence in the Internet in order to identify more effective approaches to protection and prevention.

Cyberbullying: What pupils, parents and teachers have to say.

Seventeen percent of the pupils interviewed indicated that they had been victims of cyberbullying. The figure rises to 20 percent among pupils in age group 14-15. One-fifth of all victims of cyberbullying complained of harassment over extended periods of time. Asked about their motives, perpetrators cited boredom and the fun factor, but also the intent to cause harm to their victims. More than one-third of all perpetrators stated that they had been victims of cyberbullying themselves in the past.

The parents surveyed indicated that the growing influence of the media made parenting increasingly difficult and often posed practically insurmountable challenges. Only 17 percent of all parents surveyed stated that they monitored their children’s activities in the Internet.

Nearly 60 percent of the teachers surveyed stated that, although they were aware of cases of cyberbullying among their students, they lacked the expertise needed to intervene effectively. With respect to the potential dangers posed by the Internet, the majority of teachers complained that they were insufficiently informed. Therefore, they called for new instructional modules and concepts for continuous teacher training as well as specific institutional measures.

Recommendation: Preventive action against cyberbullying

Dr. Katzer, who directed the study, summarizes the essential insights gained from the study as follows: “The ‘Bündnis gegen Cybermobbing’ (Alliance against Cyberbullying) recommends establishing a nationally certified online counseling office and a portal offering help and guidance similar to the new “Violence against Women” hotline set up by the Ministry of Family Affairs.”

The study also indicates a need for new online information services. Providers of online portals should make users aware of the risks and dangers associated with cyberbullying and offer advice about how to respond to cyberbullying and whom to turn to in the event of cyber-bullying attacks. The Alliance against Cyberbullying also emphasizes the urgent need for self-control on the part of online portal providers.

The need for more effective preventive measures at schools, beginning at the elementary school level with the introduction of courses in media education as well as improved training programs for teachers was also cited. “And last but not least, we need a cyberbullying law that will show both victims and perpetrators that cyberbullying is not innocent fun, but rather a serious crime,” notes Dr. Catarina Katzer. “Our goal is not to take the fun out of cyberlife for children and youth,” as Dr. Paul-Otto Faßbender, Chairman and CEO of ARAG SE, pointed out at the presentation of the study. “ARAG will commit itself to protecting and enhancing the quality of life for everyone who is fascinated by the diverse spectrum of offerings in the Internet. Our work in this regard has only just begun.”