Japan has over 38,000 unofficial middle and high school Web sites that are not overseen by the schools, and harassment, sexual content, and violent slang are prevalent among them, an education ministry survey showed.
"There have been many incidents involving such Web sites, but we didn't really know what exactly was going on out there," said Tsuyoshi Seno, an education ministry official, giving the reason for conducting the survey.
Online bullying, where hateful messages and pictures are posted on Web sites and abusive e-mails are sent through mobile phones and the Internet, has been a problem in Japan, which has around 15,000 middle and high schools.
The issue drew public attention in July 2007, when an 18-year-old boy leapt to his death at his high school in Kobe, western Japan, after classmates posted a nude photo of him on an unofficial school Web site and repeatedly sent him e-mails demanding money.
The education ministry survey showed that out of the 2,000 Web sites that the ministry examined in depth, half contained hateful messages, almost 40 percent had sexual slang and a quarter carried violent words, such as "drop dead" and "I'll kill you."
Most of the unofficial sites were set up by students.
Out of approximately 1,500 middle and high school students who responded to the survey, a quarter said they look at such unofficial school Web pages, and 14 percent said they post messages there.
"The problems will not be solved by just pushing all the responsibility onto the parents and teachers and having them react to the harmful Web sites, links to these sites and advertisements on the sites. Perhaps it is necessary to examine the countermeasures, both socially and institutionally," experts said in the survey.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said it was not easy for the government to respond to the emergence of such Web sites.
"There are some countries that could just shut them down straight away. But Japan cannot legally do that. I think it is a question of the morals of the children and the parents who use them," he said.
Ten percent of high school students have been harassed through Web sites, blogs or e-mails, a survey by the Hyogo Prefectural Board of Education showed.