Campaigners warn of cyberbullying rise at start of new school year
The start of the school academic year is the "perfect storm" for cyberbullying, as searches for information about online abuse skyrocket, campaigners have warned.
Research has revealed the number of Google searches for "cyberbullying" in September and October were almost eight times higher than during the summer months last year.
Safety group Internet Matters said the return to school often coincided with children getting smartphones and greater means of communicating with each other online.
Combined figures from September and October 2015 showed the term was searched for 134,500 times - including 74,000 in October alone.
This dwarfs the 17,500 searches in July and August combined, and the monthly average of 33,100.
It comes as the organisation conducted a study of 1,500 parents which found 62% are concerned about the prospect of online abuse - overshadowing the amount of anxiety caused by online grooming (56%) and sexting (59%).
Almost one in 10 (9%) parents said their child has been involved in a cyberbullying incident.
Carolyn Bunting, general manager of Internet Matters, said: "This time of the year can create a perfect storm for cyberbullying.
"Many children may be getting their first smartphone as they start at a new school and find a wider network of friends online.
"Connecting with friends on social media and online can be liberating and empowering for children, which makes cyberbullying all the more impactful. "
Internet Matters - founded by BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media to help youngsters use the internet safely - has collaborated with the Anti-Bullying Alliance to create a website geared towards educating parents about how to combat online harassment .
Campaign ambassador and psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos said: "Bullying is not confined to the school playground any more.
"The digital age means it can follow you home and can be just as hurtful as physical bullying.
"Sometimes children don't want to talk about what is happening to them online.
"They may feel helpless or worry their parents will take away their phones or ban them from using tech.
"It's vital that parents learn how to pick up the signs, especially at this time of the year when there is a rise in the number of people seeking information about the issue."
Information about how to protect children from cyberbullying and warning signs to watch out for can be found at www.internetmatters.org/cyberbullying