Cyberbullying Is Not Worse than Physical Bullying
Amanda Lenhart, “Cyberbullying and Online Teens,” Pew Internet & American Life Project, June 27, 2007. www.pewinternet.org. Reproduced by permission.
“Overall, both boys and girls say that kids their age are more likely to be harassed offline.”
Amanda Lenhart is a senior research specialist at the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a nonprofit organization that researches the impact of the Internet on American society and culture. She reports in the following viewpoint that cyber-bullying, the harassment of people over the Internet, cell phones, or other novel communications media, is a problem in the computer age. Lenhart states that cyber-bullying is most common among young people and that about a third of teenagers polled by Pew in 2006 reported being the victim of this form of intimidation. Most of these teens said they had private e-mails or other messages publicly disclosed. However, Lenhart asserts that the respondents to the Pew survey claimed that traditional bullying was still more common than online harassment.
As you read, consider the following questions:
- What percentage of teens in the Pew survey said that bullying was more likely to occur off-line than online?
- According to Lenhart, are girls or boys more likely to be the victims of the online rumor mill?
- As Lenhart relates, what percentage of online teens who do not use social networking sites report having embarrassing photos posted on the Internet?
About one third (32%) of all teenagers who use the Internet say they have been targets of a range of annoying and potentially menacing online activities—such as receiving threatening messages; having their private e-mails or text messages forwarded without consent; having an embarrassing picture posted without permission; or having rumors about them spread online.
Depending on the circumstances, these harassing or “cyberbullying” behaviors may be truly threatening, merely annoying or relatively benign. But several patterns are clear: girls are more likely than boys to be targets; and teens who share their identities and thoughts online are more likely to be targets than are those who lead less active online lives.
Of all the online harassment asked about, the greatest number of teens told us that they had had a private communication forwarded or publicly posted without their permission. One in 6 teens (15%) told us someone had forwarded or posted communication they assumed was private. About 13% of teens told us that someone had spread a rumor about them online, and another 13% said that someone had sent them a threatening or aggressive e-mail, IM or text message. Some 6% of online teens told us that someone had posted an embarrassing picture of them without their permission.
Yet when asked where they thought bullying happened most often to teens their age, the majority of teens, 67%, said that bullying and harassment happens more offline than online. Less than one in three teens (29%) said that they thought that bullying was more likely to happen online, and 3% said they thought it happened both online and offline equally.
These results come from a nationally-representative phone survey of 935 teenagers by the Pew Internet & American Life Project….
Victims of the Rumor Mill
Girls are more likely than boys to say that they have ever experienced cyberbullying—38% of online girls report being bullied, compared with 26% of online boys. Older girls in particular are more likely to report being bullied than any other age and gender group, with 41% of online girls ages 15 to 17 reporting these experiences. Teens who use social network sites like MySpace and Facebook and teens who use the Internet daily are also more likely to say that they have been cyberbullied. Nearly 4 in 10 social network users (39%) have been cyberbullied in someway, compared with 22% of online teens who do not use social networks.
The most commonly experienced bullying is having someone take a private e-mail, IM or text message and forwarding it on to someone else or posting the communication publicly. Nearly 1 in 6 (15%) of online teens said they had experienced unwanted forwarding of private communication. Older teens (ages 15-17) say they are more likely to have had someone forward or publicly post private messages—18% of older teens have experienced this, compared with 11% of younger teens.
A bit more than one in eight or 13% of teens said that someone had spread a rumor about them online. A girl in middle school told us: “I know a lot of times online someone will say something about one person and it’ll spread and then the next day in school, I know there’s like one of my friends, something happened online and people started saying she said something that she never said, and the next day we came into school and no one would talk to her and everyone’s ignoring her. And she had no idea what was going on. Then someone sent her the whole conversation between these two people.”
Girls are more likely to report someone spreading rumors about them than boys, with 16% of girls reporting rumor-spreading compared with 9% of boys. Social network users are more likely than those who do not use social networks to report that someone had spread a rumor about them (16% vs. 8%).
Threats and Embarrassing Photos
One in eight online teens (13%) reported that someone had sent them a threatening or aggressive e-mail, instant message or text message. One fifteen-year-old boy in a focus group admitted, “I played a prank on someone but it wasn’t serious … I told them I was going to come take them from their house and kill them and throw them in the woods. It’s the best prank because it’s like ‘oh my god, I’m calling the police’ and I was like ‘I’m just kidding, I was just messing with you.’ She got so scared though.”
Older teens, particularly 15- to 17-year-old girls, are more likely to report that they have received a threatening e-mail or message. Overall, 9% of online teens ages 12-14 say they have been threatened via e-mail, IM or text, while 16% of online teens ages 15-17 report similar harassment….
Fewer teens, some 6%, reported that someone had posted an embarrassing picture of them online without their permission. Not surprisingly, given the number of photos posted on social networking Web sites, users of those sites are more likely to report that someone had posted embarrassing pictures of them online without their permission—9% of social network users reported this, compared with just 2% of those who do not use social networking sites. Similarly, teens who post photos themselves are more likely to report that someone has posted an embarrassing photo of them without their permission….
A More Serious Problem Off-line
Girls are a bit more likely than boys to say that bullying happens more online (33% of girls vs. 25% of boys), though overall, both boys and girls say that kids their age are more likely to be harassed offline. White teens are a bit more likely than African-American teens to think that bullying is more of a problem online—32% of white teens said bullying happens more often online, while 18% of African-American teens said the same. Teens who have online profiles are just as likely as those who do not to say that bullying happens more often offline.
Teens who have been cyberbullied are more likely than their peers who have not been bullied to say that they believe bullying happens online more than offline. However, the majority of bullied teens say that bullying is more likely to happen offline than online. More than 7 in 10 (71%) of teens who have not experienced bullying believe it happens more often offline, while 57% of teens who have been cyberbullied themselves say bullying happens more offline.
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