More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Teens take bullying to the Internet, study finds
Wed Nov 28, 2007
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hateful text messages, abusive e-mails and cyber-gossip are giving bullies new power over their victims -- even in the supposed safety of their own homes, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

And most of the victims are themselves new, with two-thirds of children who report such harassment saying they had not been bullied before in other ways.

Schools and parents must work together to find ways to stop such behavior, without robbing children and teens of valuable Internet access, the researchers agreed.

"Internet bullying has emerged as a new and growing form of social cruelty," Kirk Williams and Nancy Guerra of the University of California at Riverside wrote in one of a series of reports published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The reports, from researchers organized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show a 50 percent increase in the number of kids aged 10 to 17 who said they were harassed online -- from 6 percent in 2000 to 9 percent in 2005.

"Youth harassed online were significantly more likely to also report two or more detentions or suspensions, and skipping school in the previous year," Michele Ybarra and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reported in another study in the journal.

"Especially concerning, youth who reported being targeted by Internet harassment were eight times more likely than all other youth to concurrently report carrying a weapon to school in the past 30 days," added Ybarra's team, who interviewed 1,500 10- to 15-year-olds.

They found that 64 percent of those who reported having been bullied online were not victims of physical or verbal aggression in person. That makes for a whole new population of victims, the researchers agreed.

An extreme example of the problem occurred in October 2006, when 13-year-old Megan Meier of Dardenne Prairie, Missouri hanged herself after receiving vitriolic Internet messages from someone posing as a teen-age boy. The town passed a measure making online harassment illegal.

"The anonymity provided by new technology limits a victim from responding in a way that may ordinarily stop a peer's aggressive behavior or influence the probability of future acts, which provides an advantage to the perpetrator," the CDC's Corinne David-Ferdon and Marci Feldman Hertz wrote.

"The primary recommendation we have for parents is to talk to their kids," Ferdon said in a telephone interview. "Talk to them about where they go on the Internet, appropriate standards of behavior."

Schools should also become involved and should add cyber-bullying to any policies they may already have on bullying and other forms of aggression, said Hertz.

Hertz and Ferdon said school districts in Florida, South Carolina, Utah and Oregon are creating new policies to deal with cyber-bullying.

Total bans on using the Internet or text-messaging are unlikely to work, she added. "Technology has a lot of benefits for young people," Hertz said. "They can make social connections that they otherwise might not have the opportunity to make."

Patricia Agatston and colleagues at Clemson University in South Carolina interviewed 148 teens in depth and found that teens often did not tell their parents about bullying for fear of losing online privileges.


Bullying is so detrimental to the esteem of a child. As someone who went through severe bullying when I was younger, I can only imagine how horrible it is to experience this new form of bullying. I only experienced it while in school, I didn't have to worry about it when outside of it.

It seems that children are never safe anymore from the harassment and degradation by other classmates and friends. I think parents need to become more aware of this cyber-bullying because it's just going to get worse from here. YouTube, MySpace, Facebook; they are all methods in which to harass a child outside and away from supervision.

Besides working with the parents, I don't see if there is anything else that can be done to stop this. What do others think?
it would be nice to see some sort of law passed so that it becomes something that you could face real consequences for. i would like to see it be made illegal. bullying in my mind is just as bad as physical violence and is just another form of assault.

with cyberbullying a record of it could easily be made by logging the messages and thus one would have evidence of it happening, and be able to report it to the police.

i know it's not that simple to just pass a law and even once it's there the police might say they can't do anything.. (example: someone fearing for their life and the police says, sorry, unless he's done something to you we can't do anything). but i think making some sort of law would be better than nothing. educating kids in school about it as well would be an important step, as well as parents out there.

another thought i just had was are there techniques for a victim to make the bullying stop that they could be taught? for example, simple things would be things like remove the person from the msn contact list, changing personal email addresses and being very careful who to give it out to, etc. schools could also have some sort of policy that bullying will lead to consequences for students, be it in person or online bullying.

i don't know too much about the best way to handle it all but these are thoughts that come to mind and certainly could use some refinement.


I think I have heard of one school that monitors all online chat and whatnot. This could have been from an episode of CSI: Miami now that I think about it, though. But the idea behind a school developing a program to monitor all online chat and messages would be a step in the right direction for at least curbing it at school. But of course that would step in on the right to privacy.

educating kids in school about it as well would be an important step, as well as parents out there.

I agree with ladybug, I think what's important now is that the children and parents be educated about this. I think school's should be the ones to start this education, such as at a parent-child orientation before middle and high school.
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