Online bullying has real-world consequences. Think before you post
By Liz Thomas, Regional Digital Safety Lead, Microsoft Asia Pacific
With COVID-19 necessitating remote work and learning, results from a new Microsoft study released in September 2020 remind us all to be mindful of how we treat others online.
Research results show that 38% of consumers in 32 countries around the world say they’ve been involved in a bullying incident as the target of the bullying, someone who displayed bullying behaviors, or as a bystander. This is experienced by 40% of teenagers and 37% adults.
Across Asia Pacific, a similar proportion of 41% consumers (teenagers and adults) have been involved in bullying. 22% of them said they were the target and 25% a bystander to the bullying.
Respondents were asked about both online and offline bullying, with adults also asked about “bullying”, also known as “harassment”, both inside and outside the workplace. One in seven adults in Asia Pacific (15%) also reported bullying occurring in their workplace. Workplace bullying is a particular challenge during the current pandemic, with separate Microsoft research on the future of work highlighting an increased blending of life and work.
Microsoft’s digital civility research
Conducted in April and May 2020, the study included a total of 32 geographies, with 4,511 people surveyed across nine countries in Asia Pacific (Australia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam). This research builds on similar studies about digital civility that Microsoft has conducted each year since 2016.
The latest study, “Civility, Safety and Interaction Online – 2020,” polled teenagers aged 13-17 and adults aged 18-74 about their online experiences and exposure to 21 different online risks across four categories: behavioural, sexual, reputational, and personal/intrusive. Full results from this latest installment will be made available on international Safer Internet Day, in February 2021.
The impact of bullying amongst adults
Online bullying has very real consequences in the offline world. Where bullying is online, a victim can be exposed to harm at any time of day, from anonymous sources, and with the potential for abuse to be broadcast to a wide audience. And while we often think about cyber-bullying as an issue facing children and young people, it is important to be aware that people of all ages can be affected by online mistreatment, cruelty, and abuse. One tragic example here in Asia Pacific is the recent death of Japanese reality star and professional wrestler, Hana Kimura.
Globally, for the respondents affected by workplace bullying, the most common consequences were feeling humiliated (58%), followed by feeling demoralized (52%) and a loss of self-confidence (51%). The impacts also varied across the generations. Fifty-three percent of respondents aged 18-24 reported feeling isolated and depressed as a consequence of bullying, whereas Gen X respondents were more likely to report being less productive at work (58%). Respondents exposed to online bullying or harassment in their workplaces were also more likely to report having “unbearable or severe” levels of pain from those experiences.
Responding to bullying online
When the target of online bullying or harassment, our research shows that most people in Asia Pacific either blocked the bully (62%) or talked to a friend (58%). Only 32% of regional respondents said they had reported the experience to a social media company or other provider.
We want to encourage people of all ages to report any cyberbullying or online harassment to the relevant online service provider. User-reporting plays an important role in helping everyone to have safe and trusted online experiences. Microsoft provides links to report abuse or concerns in each product or service, along with topic-specific webforms to report non-consensual pornography (unartfully referred to as “revenge porn”), terrorist content, and hate speech. These issues, as well as bullying, harassment, and other inappropriate behavior are all violations of Microsoft’s Code of Conduct as detailed in the Microsoft Services Agreement.
Research we released in July 2020 showed that digital civility had improved in Asia Pacific during COVID-19, with people reporting more positive online experiences across the region in April and May. As the pandemic continues to reshape the way we work, play, and learn, we in the region have an opportunity to embrace the Microsoft Digital Civility Challenge and try lead the world in treating each other with kindness, showing respect, and standing up for ourselves and others online.
You can find more advice on dealing with online harassment here and a range of other online safety guidance on our website.