According to a new study, cyberbullying is becoming a prevalent problem at high schools across the country. Researchers also found that teenagers are spending more of their free time online than ever before, which could play a role in the increase in cyberbullying noted in the study. For parents and teachers, the news is concerning since most are unaware of precisely what goes on between students through texting and online social networking. Awareness of the problem is just the first step in protecting students from electronic bullying and the sometimes tragic consequences that can result.
The study was performed by researchers at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York and presented recently to the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Washington, D.C. According to a report in Science Daily, researchers analyzed data from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which involved more than 15,000 students at public and private high schools across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducts a survey every two years to monitor high-risk behaviors that lead to death, disability, and social problems. This is the first time the survey included questions about cyberbullying.
This video describes ten forms of cyberbullying.
White Female Students Most Common Victims of Cyberbullying
According to a report in the Examiner, the new study found that 16 percent of high school students have been victims of cyberbullying in the past 12 months. This is calculated to be one in every six high school students nationwide. Victims were more likely to be female, with girls reporting bullying incidents at twice the rate of boys in the study. Around 22 percent of girls said they had been bullied, and 11 percent of boys had been victims. In addition, the study found that white students were most likely to be bullied (16.8%), followed by Asian students (14.4%), Hispanic students (13.6%), and black students (8.9%). These students reported bullying incidents through texting, websites, chat rooms, email, and instant messaging.
“Electronic bullying is a very real yet silent danger that may be traumatizing children and teens without parental knowledge and has the potential to lead to devastating consequences,” Karen Ginsberg, one of the principal researchers for the study, told Science Daily. “By identifying groups at higher risk for electronic bullying, it is hoped that targeted awareness and prevention strategies can be implemented.”
This video tells the story of a 14-year-old girl who is a victim of cyberbullying when a former friend repeatedly sends hurtful messages.
Hours on Screens May Contribute to the Problem
The study also found that high school students spend many hours on computers or video games daily. Researchers discovered that nearly one-third of students who participated in the survey spend three or more hours on video games or a computer daily on activities other than schoolwork. Boys were likelier to engage in this activity, with 35.3 percent of boys stating they spent this much time on screen-related activities, while 26.6 percent of girls did the same.
The concern is that the more time students spend on these devices, the more opportunities there are for cyberbullying. Study author Andrew Adesman, MD, FAAP, chief of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Cohen, told Science Daily, “As technology advances and computers become that much more accessible, cyberbullying will continue to grow as a hurtful weapon against kids and teens.”
As researchers note, the amount of time kids spend online today, they hope that awareness of the problem will put prevention mechanisms into place. Ginsberg said, “By identifying groups at higher risk for electronic bullying, it is hoped that targeted awareness and prevention strategies can be implemented.”
Strategies for Addressing Cyberbullying
In Montana, cyberbullying is being addressed through a statewide effort by the Student Advisory Board. This group is made up of students throughout the state who have come together to find ways to improve graduation rates by reducing bullying of all types in their schools. The Independent Record reports that the board's latest meeting included 32 students representing 28 schools. Many of those students had been personally impacted by cyberbullying.
“A name called in school eventually goes away, and people forget about it,” Stacia Hill, a high school student in Montana, told the Independent Record. “But it doesn't go away when it’s posted on the Internet. It stays around, and people can email it, send links, and say, ‘Hey, have you seen what this person has said about you?’ And they can revisit the page over and over.”
This video offers strategies for parents and educators to deal with cyberbullying.
Montana students understand that the first step to reducing the number of bullying incidents is to identify the root of the problem. Students also realize that the high school population, their parents, and the general public need to understand how lethal online injuries can be. The board meets regularly to explore new ways to keep bullying down and graduation rates up in their state.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has established its website to help parents prevent cyberbullying in their homes. Some of the tips on the website include knowing what their kids do online, tuning into their children’s texts and instant messages, and keeping an account of their kids’ passwords in case they need to see what is happening online.
Cyberbullying is a very real problem today, but the good news is awareness of the problem could lead to the prevention of some incidents. When parents and teachers educate themselves about cyberbullying and why it occurs, they may be able to take an active and effective role in preventing at least a portion of this damaging activity.
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