Who’s The Boss?

Study: One in three kids is victim of cyberbullying
by: Jerry Liao

About one third (32%) of all U.S. teenagers who use the Internet say they have been targets of a range of annoying and potentially menacing online activities such as receiving threatening messages; having their private emails or text messages forwarded without consent; having an embarrassing picture posted without permission; or having rumors about them spread online. These results come from a nationally-representative phone survey of 935 teenagers by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Depending on the circumstances, these harassing or “cyberbullying” behaviors may be truly threatening, merely annoying or relatively benign. But several patterns are clear: girls are more likely than boys to be targets; and teens who share their identities and thoughts online are more likely to be targets than are those who lead less active online lives.

Of all the online harassment asked about, the greatest number of teens said that they had had a private communication forwarded or publicly posted without their permission. One in 6 teens (15%) said someone had forwarded or posted communication they assumed was private. About 13% of teens said that someone had spread a rumor about them online, and another 13% said that someone had sent them a threatening or aggressive email, IM or text message. Some 6% of online teens revealed that someone had posted an embarrassing picture of them without their permission. Yet when asked where they thought bullying happened most often to teens their age, the majority of teens, 67%, said that bullying and harassment happens more offline than online. Less than one in three teens (29%) said that they thought that bullying was more likely to happen online, and three percent said they thought it happened both online and offline equally.

In focus groups conducted by the Project about the issue, one 16-year-old girl casually described how she and her classmates bullied a fellow student: “There’s one MySpace from my school this year. There’s this boy in my anatomy class who everybody hates. He’s like the smart kid in class. Everybody’s jealous. They all want to be smart. He always wants to work in our group and I hate it. So everybody in school goes on it to comment bad things about this boy.”

Older teens, particularly 15- to 17-year-old girls, are more like to report that they have received a threatening email or message. Overall, 9% of online teens ages 12-14 say they have been threatened via email, IM or text, while 16% of online teens ages 15-17 report similar harassment. Among older girls, 19% have received threatening or aggressive email, IMs or text messages. Social network users are more likely than those who do not use social networks to report that someone had sent them a threatening or aggressive email (16% vs. 8%).

Girls are more likely than boys to say that they have ever experienced cyberbullying ­38% of online girls report being bullied, compared with 26% of online boys. Older girls in particular are more likely to report being bullied than any other age and gender group, with 41% of online girls ages 15 to 17 reporting these experiences. Teens who use social network sites like MySpace and Facebook and teens who use the internet daily are also more likely to say that they have been cyberbullied. Nearly 4 in 10 social network users (39%) have been cyberbullied in someway, compared with 22% of online teens who do not use social networks.

Online teens who have created content for the internet for instance, by authoring blogs, uploading photos, sharing artwork or helping others build websites are more likely to report cyberbullying and harassment than their peers. Content creators are also more likely to use social networks places to create and display and receive feedback on content creations, and social network users are also more likely to be cyberbullied.

Bullying has entered the digital age. The impulses behind it are the same, but the effect is magnified. In the past, the materials of bullying would have been whispered, shouted or passed around. Now, with a few clicks, a photo, video or a conversation can be shared with hundreds via email or millions through a website, online profile or blog posting.

My advice: If possible, do not post your true personal information especially information that will allow visitors to communicate with you outside your social networking page/site. Post secondary emails only and do not include phones/mobile number, schools or workplace, and addresses. The lesser information you provide, the safer you’ll be online.

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