Cyber bullying: The growing menace costing NZ $444m

8:29 am on 10 October 2018

Online bullying comes with a massive financial burden.

Cyber bullying.

Photo: 123rf

A new report by economist Shamubeel Eaqub has found cyber bullying costs the country $444 million a year.

It's the first report that puts a financial figure on the social cost of being bullied, harassed and threatened online.

The report - commissioned by Netsafe - has used overseas research along with a UMR survey of thousand people here.

It said while the number of victims might be small the damage was huge and calculates the cost to family and friends of the unpaid hours spent dealing with the damage at $347m a year.

The figure doesn't take into account long-term effects on mental and physical health, along with lost productivity.

Mr Eaqub said cyber bullies seemed to have particular targets.

"The impact is much larger on younger people, on women, and on people of colour," he said.

The study found one in ten New Zealand adults have been bullied online, but it was much more common among teens and people in their twenties with almost half of 18 and 19 year olds suffering some kind of cyber abuse.

Nearly a third of victims don't come forward, and the same kind of awareness campaign as in mental health was needed to let people know cyberbullying is "common, it happens, but also that there's help out there", Mr Eaqub said.

Young people RNZ approached had been victims themselves or knew of others who had been.

Angus said modern technology made it very easy.

"Just through any social media platform - it is pretty easy to have any app on your phone that you can use it through, or do it," he said.

On the other hand, Maddy had this advice to offer.

"Most of the time you just grin and bear it, or you just end up blocking people, which is a good handy thing," she said.

Mr Eaqub said blocking people might not be that easy, especially if the victim saw them at school every day.

Jean Andrews is a school counsellor and also a spokesperson for the Counsellors' Association.

She said complaints about cyber bullying make up a significant part of their workload, but students aren't getting the help they need.

"Often young people can not access the help they need because it is only about relationships, whereas the school counsellor has to prioritise and deal with the highly at risk people first," she said.

Mr Eaqub said there were still a lot of unanswered questions.

"What we want to do in the work in the future is around saying what is the real life consequences in terms of truancy, or absence from school, the impact on graduation rates," he said.

He said that was likely to significantly increase the cost of social harm well past the near half billion dollar figure in this report.

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