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Justin W. Patchin, who studies cyberbullying at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, says that as many as 25% of teenagers have been bullied online at some point. He and his colleagues have done formal surveys of 15,000 middle and high school students across the United States. They found that about 10% of teens have been victims of cyberbullying in the last 30 days.
Patchin said that online bullying is a lot like bullying at school. Both involve harassment, humiliation, teasing, and acts of violence. Cyberbullying is different from other types of bullying because the bully can try to remain anonymous and attacks can happen at any time of day or night. However, Patchin said that there is still more bullying at school than online. And it’s rare for a kid’s online bully to be someone they’ve never met before.
Patchin said, “Our research shows that about 85% of the time, the person being bullied knows who the bully is, and it’s usually someone they know.”
Patchin’s research has also shown that, even though cyberbullying is easier in some ways, the kids who do it at school are often the same ones who do it online.
Thomas J. Holt, an associate professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University, said that cyberbullying needs to be talked about in places other than schools.
“How do we extend or find a way to make policies that have a real effect on how kids talk to each other when you can be bullied at home from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m.?” “What kind of effect will that have on the child’s development and mental health until the next morning?” he asked.
Holt just put out a study in the International Criminal Justice Review that used data that his colleague Esther Ng collected in Singapore. Researchers found that 27% of students who were bullied online and 28% of those who were bullied through text messages either thought about skipping school or actually did. Compared to the 22% who were bullied physically, this is a big difference.
Those who said they were cyberbullied were also the most likely to say they had thought about suicide. 28%, compared to 22% of those who said they were bullied physically and 26% of those who said they got bullying text messages.
Since everything we do online leaves a digital trail, he said, it is possible to find out who is behind anonymous online bullying. Patchin said that there may be more clear-cut proof of cyberbullying than “your word against mine” cases of traditional bullying.
Patchin suggests that kids who are being cyberbullied keep the evidence, like an email or Facebook post, so they can show it to an adult they trust. Patchin said that in the past, schools didn’t always punish bullies if they didn’t do it at school, but today, most teachers know that they have the power and responsibility to step in. A mother was afraid that bullying would kill her son.
Cyberbullying can also happen to adults, though there aren’t as many ways to stop it. Patchin said that their only real option is to hire a lawyer and go to court.
Even in school, though, it’s not always easy to see what to do.
Turley’s mom called the school on his behalf, but the students involved only got a talking-to as punishment. At that time, he said, cyberbullying wasn’t seen as something that happened at school.
Turley says that he went to a different middle school every year in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades because he was so afraid of people. He didn’t say much to anyone else and stayed quiet for most of it.
When Turley put his video diaries on YouTube when he was in the eighth grade, he slowly started to become more like other people again. Soon, other students asked him to help them make videos for school projects, track meets, and other things.
Turley founded a nonprofit group called WeStopHate.org when he was in high school. This group helps people who have been bullied and gives them a safe place to tell their stories.
Emily-Anne Rigal, who started the group, was picked on because of her weight when she was in elementary school. Even though she lived on the other side of the country from Turley, they became friends online because they both wanted to stop bullying.
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WeStopHate.org has reached a large number of people. Rigal has won many awards for her work, including the Presidential Volunteer Service Award and a TeenNick HALO Award from Lady Gaga.
Turley made the WeStopHate.org website and most of its graphics. He is also an active member of the group. In addition to Rigal, he has a lot of other internet-based friends in different states.
He said, “I was cyberbullied, and I think that made me think that there must be someone on the Internet who doesn’t hate me.” “That made me want to look for more.”
Ashley Berry, who is 13 and from Littleton, Colorado, has also had bad things happen to her online. When Ashley was 11, a classmate took pictures of her and made a whole Facebook page about her. When Ashley asked the student who she thought did it, he or she denied it.
“It said where I went to school, where my family was from, and my birthday. “There were no security settings at all, so it was pretty scary,” she said.
Ashley said that the page itself didn’t do any harm or say anything bad. Anna Berry, the girl’s mother, was worried about the privacy breach and put it in the context of what else was happening to her daughter at school, where friends were not inviting her to birthday parties and leaving her at the lunch table.
Berry said, “You’d see a girl who should be on top of the world come home and just shut herself in her room.”
Holt said that when thinking about how children use technology, parents, extended family, Internet service providers, and technology providers can all be taken into account.
Holt said that app that limit how much time kids spend online and other easy-to-use parental controls might help. There could also be apps that help parents keep their kids away from harmful content and help kids report bullying.
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working on a solution that is even easier to use. They want to set up a system that would give people who are bullied ways to deal with it, make potential bullies stop and think before posting something offensive, and let bystanders defend bullied people, according to Henry Lieberman.
Birago Jones and Karthik Dinakar, two of Lieberman’s students, are making an algorithm that would automatically spot bullying language. The research group has put the different kinds of offensive things people say into groups, such as racial and ethnic slurs, insults to intelligence, accusations of sexuality, and social acceptance or rejection.