CHILDREN as young as eight are verbally abusing each other via social media, according to new figures which show hundreds of cases of cyberbullying in Scotland’s schools.
Figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives show schools have recorded more than 500 incidents over the past three years, though the real figure is likely to be higher.
The number includes incidents where children filmed bullying and then threatened to put the footage online.
The figures and nature of incidents were exposed following a Freedom of Information request by the Tories to all local authorities in Scotland.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “The picture painted here is extremely worrying, which is why we need local authorities to do more to collect and publish this information.
“The lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of children are being made a misery as a result of cyberbullying.
“That is a disgraceful situation and, with young lives being damaged, the Scottish Government need to take a lead on this.
“Technology, the internet and social media can all be a great tool to help young people expand their horizons and improve their learning.
“But as we can see from these alarming statistics, such technology can be used as a vehicle to bully and abuse young people too.
“We owe it to them to tackle this subject head-on, and make sure those cowards who engage in faceless keyboard bullying face the same harsh consequences as those who harm others through more traditional forms of bullying.”
Earlier this year, Dunfermline teenager Daniel Perry jumped to his death from the Forth Road Bridge after being blackmailed online.
The 17-year-old was tricked into taking part in a Skype chat with someone he believed was a girl of his own age.
And the father of 14-year-old Hannah Smith from Leicestershire blamed bullying on social networking site Ask.fm after the teenager killed herself.
The cases followed earlier calls from teaching unions for a national campaign to promote zero tolerance of cyberbullying amid complaints that teachers themselves were being subjected to “untold distress and trauma” by pupils misusing Twitter and Facebook.
The Nasuwt union said the popularity of social media had led to a growing number of cases where teachers had been subjected to “public ridicule” or “false allegations”.
According to the figures obtained by the Tories, police have been involved in dealing with cyberbullying on numerous occasions since 2010-11, while several children were excluded for their behaviour.
In some cases, teachers were involved in additional online-bullying training, while parents were summoned to meetings in school to resolve the problem.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Bullying is unacceptable in any form, but there are particular challenges in dealing with online abuse.
“This week we published advice for parents thinking about buying smartphones, tablets and computers for children and in 2014 we will continue this work to look at the information available to educate and support young people.
“All pupils receive classes that look at appropriate online behaviour and the help available to report abuse alongside practical learning to encourage robust and responsible internet users.
“We have also provided schools with guidance on appropriate management and use of mobile technology in class to take advantage of the positive opportunities it presents as well as preventing it becoming a distracting influence.”