A survey of social media use in Australia has revealed regional users are more likely to have witnessed or been the victim of bullying that those in the major cities.
The 2017 Sensis Social Media Report found 23 per cent of regional participants had witnessed bullying or harassment compared to 15 per cent for metropolitan counterparts.
Nine per cent of regional respondents said they had been the victim of cyber bullying, compared to just 4 per cent in metropolitan areas.
Other statistics revealed by the report showed that social media use is growing, particularly in the regional areas.
With 99 per cent of people aged between 18 and 29 year olds and 79 per cent of all age groups using social media, bullying can also have a far greater impact than ever.
Headspace youth access and awareness worker Nic Steepe said people in regional NSW utilised social media such as facebook and Twitter more than ever to keep in touch with with friends.
He said the larger distances between towns, and people moving for university and job opportunities had driven the digital interaction.
“It’s the social connection we all strive for and that’s why so many people turn to it. People from regional areas seek that support,” Mr Steepe said.
“For the 18 to 25 year old bracket, you don’t have school support, you might have university support but the friends you established at school may have also moved away and you want to keep in touch.
headspace caters for people aged 12-25 and Mr Steepe said they were seeing more cases where people were the victims of online abuse.
“It doesn’t surprise us because we are aware of the isolation we face as a regional town but reports like this are important because they draw attention to the problem,” he said.
“Cyberbullying is on the rise, in terms of the number of people who present to us.
“Young people are the biggest users of social media and when someone presents to us with bullying issues, generally there is at least some degree of cyberbullying involved.”
Mr Steepe said anyone who was the victim of cyberbullying should seek help early to stop it.
“It depends how much it is happening, if it is across all social media.
But I think the advice we would give would be not to limit social media interaction, but simply block people.
“On every social media platform you can block people, even text messaging, to limit the harm they can do to you.”