Girls three times more likely to be victims of cyberbullying

By Brian Lowe Source:Global Times Published: 2019/10/10 23:18:40

Online abuse on the rise in US, says survey

Photo: VCG

If you thought that as a society we were getting on top of the relatively new phenomenon of cyberbullying you would be sadly mistaken.

Cyberbullying is on the rise across the US with three times as many girls reporting being harassed online or by text message than boys, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The US Department of Education's research and data arm released its latest survey in July, showing an uptick in online abuse, though the overall number of students who report being bullied stayed the same.

The survey showed about one in five students reported being bullied, ranging from rumors or being excluded to threats and physical attacks in the 2016-17 school year. That's unchanged from the previous survey done in 2014-15.

But in that two-year span, cyberbullying reports increased significantly, from 11.5 percent to 15.3 percent. Broken down by gender, 21 percent of girls in middle and high school reported being bullied online or by text message in the 2016-17 school year, compared with less than 7 percent of boys.

The definition of cyberbullying, or cyber violence, is given as online behavior that constitutes or leads to assault against the well-being (physical, psychological, emotional) of an individual or group. It can take a variety of forms, including aggressive or threatening emails, text messages, or instant messages; sharing personal photos and videos without consent; internet trolling; hacking; cyberstalking; and others.

In the US, both men and women are harassed online; however, 57 percent of adults who reported online harassment are women, compared to 43 percent of men.

Serious consequences like depression and suicidal thoughts and behavior have been linked to cyberbullying.

Recently a college student in Utah admitted she had contemplated suicide when she was at high school because she was constantly cyberbullied by an ex-friend of hers. That friend would mock her online postings, threaten to unfollow or unfriend her on social media and post inside jokes about her to others online.

In 2016, Jordan Peisner, then 14, was sucker punched by another teenage boy at a shopping center in Los Angeles and the whole incident was recorded and posted on social media. He spent a week in hospital recovering from a fractured skull.

Two teenagers were charged, while the person who filmed it was not. Peisner's father then worked with California State Assembly member Matt Dababneh on legislation now known as "Jordan's Law" to hold those who film violent attacks with the purpose of posting it online criminally responsible.

Wendy Patrick, a legal analyst and professor of psychology at San Diego State University, said she wouldn't be surprised if all 50 states expanded the range of criminal prohibitions regarding electronic cyberbullying in the next few years because cyberbullying is an invisible epidemic.

Cyber violence is indiscriminate. Almost anyone with an Internet connection or mobile phone can cyberbully someone else. Bullies tend to pick on people who are different or don't fit in with the mainstream.

Even people with high profiles such as athletes can be vilified online.

An example of that is Canadian hockey player Maxime Comtois. The 19-year old, a prospect for NHL team the Anaheim Ducks, was slammed by a barrage of hateful messages from trolls on social media after the world junior championships this year.

He missed scoring a penalty goal in overtime which contributed to Canada's eventual loss to Finland in the quarterfinals. Some of the messages criticized him for missing the shot, others attacked him for allegedly embellishing when he was hit on various plays. He later said publicly cyberbullying is a real threat and no one should have to go through it.

There is no simple solution to bullying or cyberbullying, or a foolproof way to handle a bully, but you can talk to your children about appropriate Internet behavior and discuss consequences for misuse.

Monitor their use and time spent on the internet and if bullying behavior, harassment or misuse is identified, notify the website or application's administration immediately and ask them to investigate the incident.

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