WASHINGTON Nov 27 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 resaarchers 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
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
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
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.
(Editing by Will Dunham and David Wiessler)