Last week, the UK anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label found that a third of young people in the UK (including Northern Ireland) were afraid that they could be bullied online, while 69% admitted to abusing another person online.

The prominence of cyberbullying on social networks highlights that this is a significant concern for Irish parents. Indeed, around three in five consumers in both Northern Ireland (NI) and the Republic of Ireland (RoI) say they are more aware of trolls and cyberbullying compared to 12 months ago, rising to 71% of NI parents and 67% of RoI parents with children aged 5-9-years-old according to Mintel’s report on Social Networking in Ireland.

The Internet Safety Strategy initiative launched by the UK (including NI) government in February 2017 notes that parents in the region are now more concerned about their children’s safety online than alcohol misuse or smoking. This is despite the steps that social networking sites have already taken to reduce trolling on their platforms, proving that there is more to do to tackle the issue.

This is important from a safety perspective, to ensure that younger and more vulnerable users are safe on social media platforms, but also from a commercial perspective, as failure to tackle the problem could see consumers disengaging from networks that they perceive as toxic and, therefore, having a reduced appeal to advertisers.

Social networks could look to introduce easier reporting features to enable abuse to be reported quicker. They are already using artificial intelligence (AI) to detect and remove inappropriate content from appearing alongside brands on their platforms, and could look to adapt this capability to help prevent bullying from taking place on their websites and apps. Going further, social networks could look to deliver educational content to users that are engaging in bullying on their platforms to help them understand the consequences of their behaviour. Moreover, social networks could connect victims of cyberbullying with professionals and support groups using their services to offer them support they need.

James is a research analyst at Mintel, covering the retail, technology and leisure sectors for Mintel’s Ireland Reports. His specialist areas include all things digital, with a focus on social media and consumer shopping habits. He has been featured in radio interviews and national publications, such as The Times.

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