Comment: Do mobile phones cause bullying in schools?

A survey conducted during National Anti-Bullying Week has found that out of almost 2000 parents, 1 in 5 believe mobile phones and social networks are a significant factor when it comes to bullying in schools.

When asked the question: "What do you think is the main cause of bullying in schools?", 19 per cent of the 1979 parents surveyed suggested it was due in some part to the use of mobile phones and social networks. Other factors were given as physical flaws, being the new kid, and being rubbish at sport.

It is not clear how much credence we should give such surveys, as this one conducted by mobile phone retailer, GoodMobilePhones.co.uk - titled "Mobile phones are one of the top reasons for bullying in schools" - only gave a set of multiple choice answers for the parents to choose from. If the company had bothered to scratch beneath the surface and actually engaged with the parents involved, a far more complex group of social factors would have emerged.

This highlights the danger of over simplifying the issue with meaningless statistics, in a bid for publicity. Yes, we're sure mobile phones and social networks are part of a wider problem of bullying in schools, but they're not the cause - perhaps more of a conduit. Smartphones make the process of bullying, which has always been an issue for both children and adults alike, far easier and more pervasive. These technologies, when abused, allow bullying to be taken out of the school and into the home, and shared instantly with a wide audience.

At first glance it may well appear that new technology, like smartphones and social networks, are driving this social change where bullying is rife. However, it is far more probable that technology is shaped by social attitudes towards it, if we as a society believe it is okay for children to have smartphones they will use them as part of their normal communicative behaviour. And if that particular child is insecure, has low self esteem, etc. then that behaviour may well result in bullying.

We're all looking for an easy answer to the problem of bullying, and in part it is our fault for allowing children unchecked access to technology that clearly requires a degree of maturity to own, but that is a social issue, highlighting our particular values, not a technological one.

- Help for parents on cyber-bullying