A third of Israelis suffer online bullying
Unsafe at any megabyte speed?

A third of Israelis suffer online bullying

Unsafe surfing is endemic to Israel, a poll ahead of Safer Internet Day shows; kids and adults are victims of abuse, theft, privacy invasions

Police accompany to a Jerusalem court a teacher accused of harassing girls on the Internet (Photo credit: Flash 90)
Police accompany to a Jerusalem court a teacher accused of harassing girls on the Internet (Photo credit: Flash 90)

Around the world and in Israel, Tuesday marks Safer Internet Day — but for many Israelis, the Internet is anything but safe. According to statistics gathered by the Israel Internet Association (ISOC), nearly one third of Israelis — 32% — said that they had been victims of online bullying in 2013.

Online bullying isn’t the form of Internet harassment plaguing Israelis. 61% of those who participated in an ISOC-sponsored poll said they felt too exposed online; 32% said they knew someone whose bank or credit card information had been purloined by hackers; 17% said friends or acquaintances of theirs were subjected to ongoing verbal abuse or harassment; and 12% said they knew someone whose personal photos had been used without their permission, often in uncomplimentary ways.

“Bullying” was defined as personal abuse by personal acquaintances or strangers who left nasty comments, threats, or invective on their personal web sites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, or via email and smartphone messaging apps.

How do Israelis handle online harassment? 43% of those polled take matters into their own hands, and 36% demand that the webmaster at the offending site take action to prevent harassment, theft, or bullying. An additional 7% reach out to the offender for resolution. One third said they would probably just ignore threats and abuse, 17% would take counsel with a friend, and 13% had no idea what to do.

The last thing Israelis would do when faced with online bullying or abuse, the poll showed, was call the police. Only 8% of respondents said that they felt police or others in authority had the tools, will, and interest in stopping cyber abuse.

International Safer Internet Day (SID) is a project of Insafe, an EU-sponsored group that promotes safe Internet practices in countries around the world. In Israel, the day will be marked by discussions in schools on safe surfing practices, with guest speakers from the police, ISOC, the National Parents Association, and the Education Ministry visiting classrooms. In 2013, over 40,000 students participated in SID events. Israel’s SID is directed by the Education Ministry, ISOC, the IDF, and Israel Police, along with private companies like Microsoft, Google, and Intel.

The extent of Internet abuse, whether from bullying, exposure to inappropriate content, or other factors, has really hit home in the past year, the poll showed. Of those identifying themselves as parents to pollsters, 65% said that they kept a close eye on where and when their children surfed, whether by scheduling web time for them, limiting the sites they could visit, or installing an Internet filter that kept kids off banned sites and reported on their web activities. A year ago, only 37% of parents said that they closely supervised their kids’ surfing.

Among Israelis, Facebook is the most popular social network, with 86% of respondents saying they had an account on the site. Instagram, the photo sharing social network, was second most popular; 26% said they had used the network in the past year. Only 17% of Israelis use Twitter on a regular basis.

The poll was commissioned by ISOC and conducted by Zeta Tools, an Israeli Internet research firm. The poll consisted of a representative sample of 506 Israelis from all sectors, ages 13 and up.

ISOC director Meital Greiver Schwartz said that the results of the poll show that “while there are wonderful things on the web – to the extent that we could not imagine our lives today without it – we see that there has been a dramatic increase in negative phenomena as well. I am very happy to see that parents are beginning to understand the importance of supervision, and I encourage them to continue supervising and educating their children on the importance of safe surfing. We at ISOC will continue our aggressive campaign to educate Israelis on safe surfing, and on how to protect themselves from the negative aspects of the Internet,” Schwartz said.

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