Recent data, showing people aged 18 to 29 living in the Shoalhaven are more likely to be bullied online than those in cities, has spurred Headspace Shoalhaven to remind people how to deal with bullies.
The Sensis statistics showed 9 per cent of youths living in regional Australia have been bullied online, while 23 per cent have witnessed bullying or harassment on social media.
The research also found 40 to 49-year-olds are the most likely to be bullied, or to have witnessed bullying online.
Across the board, eight in 10 people in regional towns are now using social media.
People spend on average more than 23 minutes a day on Facebook and 32 minutes on Snapchat, the report said.
Headspace Nowra Service Manager Kathryn Baudinette said everyone responded differently to bullying, but it was normal to feel angry, sad, anxious, shameful and fearful.
She said the impact of bullying often stayed with people for life.
“The effects of social media bullying extend way beyond the online space and can have an impact on all parts of a young person’s life, including their relationships, confidence and school and work performance,” Ms Baudinette said.
“It is often a very isolating experience where a young person can feel alone and start to withdraw from others.
“At times, online bullying can contribute to a young person developing mental health issues like anxiety and depression.”
Ms Baudinette encouraged people to tell people they were being bullied, and not keep it to themselves.
“First, ask for it to stop. If it continues, don’t engage with or respond to abusive messages, pictures, or memes,” she said.
“Let someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, teacher, employer, counsellor or sports coach know what is happening for you.
“If you don’t want to speak to someone you know headspace, Kids Helpline and Lifeline are also there for you too.”
She said it was important for young people to continue being social and doing things they enjoyed.
Social media was not all bad, Ms Baudinette said.
“Link in with your friends and supports on social media,” she said.
“If you see someone else being bullied online, reach out to them or speak to a trusted adult about it.”
The Sensis data showed almost six in 10 people were using social media in the bedroom, up from 42 per cent to 59 per cent this year, and rising to 94 per cent among people aged 18 to 29.
It also reported people aged 18 to 29, or males are more likely to befriend strangers online and use social platforms on the toilet.
Ms Baudinette said it was not uncommon for young people to report they had experienced bullying, either online or in person, which was reflective of social media being a large part of young peoples’ lives.
“Headspace Nowra understands that social media plays an important role in young peoples’ lives and its impacts can be mixed,” she said.
“Social media is a great way that young people can connect when they live in regional or rural areas where transport is difficult and don’t have the regular contact of school anymore.”
Headspace Nowra supports young people aged 12 to 25 who have experienced bullying, along with other issues they may be facing regarding their mental health, physical health, alcohol and other drugs, and work and study.
You can contact headspace Nowra on 4421 5388 to book an appointment, or chat online with youth-friendly clinicians at headspace.org.au.