Bullying Moves From Online to Text-Messaging:
MONDAY, Nov. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Kids' exposure to online
attacks and deviant behavior appears to have leveled off, but as
more kids socialize by cellphone, sexual and other bothersome text
messages are on the rise, a new study finds.
Young people use technology to converse and connect with one
another and, as with face-to-face methods, "there are positives and
negatives," said lead study author Michele Ybarra, president and
research director of Internet Solutions for Kids, a nonprofit
research organization in San Clemente, Calif.
The good news is "our data don't support that things are getting
worse online in frequency or intensity" in terms of harassment,
bullying and unwanted sexual experiences, she said.
The study looked at violence exposure from computers and text
messaging (but not from accessing websites from a smartphone). It
also measured young people's reactions -- how they rated their own
level of distress.
About one-third of teens and preteens reported being very or
extremely distressed from Internet-based sexual experiences, while
between 20 percent and 25 percent felt that way because of online
For the study, researchers used online surveys to reach almost
1,600 adolescents, ages 10 to 15, starting in 2006, with yearly
follow-ups in 2007 and 2008.
"Unwanted sexual solicitation" by text messaging was 1.9 times higher in 2008 than in 2006, a significant increase. Participants reported whether within the past year "someone tried to get me to talk about sex when I did not want to" or "asked me for sexual information about myself" or "to do something sexual that I did not want to do."
The survey looked at perpetration -- attacking -- as well as
victimization, asking whether adolescents had sent unwanted text
messages or pictures of a sexual nature, commonly known as
"sexting." Odds of doing so increased between 2007 and 2008, but it
was not a statistically significant change.
Earlier this month,
HealthDay reported on findings that sexting was common among
Boston-area high school students and emotionally disturbing for
Harassment by text-messaging also rose significantly as time
went on. A question on bullying that was added in the second year
suggested a similar trend.
"Bullying is something that happens over time, repetitively, and between people of differential power," Ybarra said. "Harassment is more generally annoying and obnoxious behavior. It can happen once or more often, between people of equal power or not."
Researchers also measured technology-related exposure to
violence in the news, death and hate sites on the Web and "adult"
Even after being asked about it throughout the study, many kids
didn't know what an online hate or death site was. Violent cartoon
viewing dropped as participants got older, and minority adolescents
were less likely to be victims of any kind of online or texting
violence, the researchers found.
The study appears online Nov. 21 and in the December print issue
of the journal
The results are a cause for concern, said Dr. Jorge Srabstein,
medical director of the Clinic for Health Problems Related to
Bullying, at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington,
"This excellent study raises awareness that young people's exposure and experience of mistreatment or victimization on the Internet has remained unabated for several years and that 25 percent of youth reported feeling very distressed by this experience," said Srabstein, who testified before the U.S. Congress on student cyber safety in June 2010.
"People who are bullied and or those who bully others, as well as those who are bystanders, are at a significant high risk of suffering from frequent physical and emotional symptoms, including depression, irritability, sleeping difficulties, headaches, stomachaches, anxiety and above all, suicidal attempts," he said.
While computers and cellphones add a virtual dimension to
bullying and other forms of violence, Srabstein and Ybarra pointed
out that many real-world opportunities exist and should not be
In previous research, Ybarra found that "children were more
likely to report in-school distress than online-related distress"
from bullying. Children's journeys to and from school provide yet
another venue for abuse, she noted.
"Bullying or mistreatment not only occurs in schools and on the Internet but also in the home between siblings, in dating relationships and in the workplace," Srabstein said. "Its occurrence over the Internet highlights the serious international public health need for its prevention."
Parents and kids can visit the Cyberbullying Research Center to
learn more about
computer, cellphones and other...ectronic devices.
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