Saturday, September 29, 2007

One in Four Teens Admit to Cyberbullying

New research suggests that 27% of teenagers are cyberbullies and 6% harass or bully others online frequently. The authors conclude that innovative approaches are needed to reduce the occurrence of Internet harassment and cyberbullying.

The research, conducted by the University of New Hampshire's Crimes against Children Research Center, was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The conclusions were based on interviews with 1500 young people ages 10 to 17 across the nation.

The study found that many youth involved in cyberbullying have poor relationships with their parents. As such, efforts aimed directly at teenagers are needed. Dr. Michele Ybarra, the principal author of the study and top researcher in the field, explains, "Youth who harass others online are twice as likely to have conflict with their parents. It's important to involve parents in Internet safety efforts, but it's important also to engage teenagers."

Dr. Ybarra has been involved in research about Internet harassment since its emergence in 2000. As a researcher, she examines the data clinically and dispassionately. Nonetheless, she was unable to ignore the pain that teens involved in Internet harassment are experiencing that is emerging through the statistics, she says. "For some young people," Dr. Ybarra explains, "Internet harassment and cyberbullying can be a very disturbing experience."

What has resulted is, a web site developed by Dr. Ybarra for teens involved in Internet harassment. This site provides an informed-by- research roadmap to thwarting teen cyberbullying. "While there are many sites out there that talk about cyberbullying, none of them speak to teens. To truly make an impact on this teen-perpetrated victimization, we decided to design a web site that is fresh and exciting for teens, but also accurate and research based," Dr. Ybarra describes.

Explosive growth of Internet use among young people has been mirrored by increasing awareness of its potential positive and negative impact on them. Recently, public concern has focused on accounts of children and teenagers being sexually solicited and harassed on social networking sites. Some politicians and lawmakers are advocating measures to restrict children and teenagers' access to these sites as a means of preventing sexual exploitation of young Internet users. "What is more important than restricting sites," Dr. Ybarra urges, "is for parents to be involved in their children's lives. Do you know where your child goes and who your child is with when they're online?"

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