Our Say: Cyberbullying a rising problem in the bush

For so many of us, social media has become an integral part of our lives and a way of staying in touch with friends and family.

Unfortunately it also has a dark side and a new study has shown that people in regional areas are most at risk.

Almost a quarter of people living in regional areas have witnessed bullying or harassment online, according to the 2017 Sensis Social Media Report.

Social media use has risen 10 per cent in the last 12 months, driven by smartphone subscriptions.

Almost 80 per cent of regional people now use social media, with 99 per cent of people aged between 18 and 29 on sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat.

Because it has become such an integral part of our lives, it has also become easier for people to be harassed through it.

The Sensis report showed 23 per cent of regional participants of the survey had witnessed online bullying or harassment. It compares to just 15 per cent for metropolitan participants.

Similarly, double the number of regional social media users (9 per cent) had been the victim of online bullying compared to those in the major cities (4 per cent).

Headspace Dubbo’s Nic Steepe said the majority of bullying cases that presented to them included some element of online bullying.

He said social media has been acknowledged as an important method for people in regional areas, particularly those who have finished high school.

If they have gone to university or moved away for employment, or their friends have, they might be feeling more vulnerable and isolated, and social media is an effective way to keep in touch.

Recognising the role it plays, headspace advises that anyone who does attract unwanted attention not shutdown an account completely but block individual users who may be bullying them.

While younger people are frequent targets of online torment, the report actually showed that of those aged 18 and over, it was the men between the age of 40-49 that were the most likely to have been bullied or harassed.

Unfortunately, the number of “trolls” on social media is growing, and it is all too easy for people to be keyboard warriors.

Those who get their enjoyment from attacking and bringing down others probably need to take a good hard look at themselves.