Youth are oblivious to the effects of cyberbullying
Statistics show that the cyberbullying problem is not getting better and that more youth are becoming victims of online bullying. In a recent poll* of young people between 14 and 24 years-old, 56% report being targeted by some form of online bullying, harassment or taunting. Reports of people being mean to each other on social networking websites has jumped 10% since 2009 – up to 55%.
The most common complaints about online behavior include people spreading false rumors, the sharing of messages and photos without permission, and impersonating someone else. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center the victimization rate is 20% to 25% for middle and high school students.
The poll also collected data regarding the use of offensive names and racial slurs with interesting findings. Words including “fag,” “slut,” “retard” and “that’s so gay” are accepted in everyday parlance among friends because “I know we don’t mean it.” When put online, however, or in a text message, the anonymous reader may be offended. Recent attempts to abolish “retard” or the “R-word” have been unsuccessful. Even the “N-word” gets a pass by a majority of young people. 44% of those surveyed said they would be offended by its use. 35% said it wouldn’t bother them much, while the remaining wouldn’t be offended at all.
Such language is written off by many as a joke or attempts to be cool. Little thought is given to unintended consequences or the feelings of the victim or victim’s family. It is when the joke or cool comment is repeated and picked up by a cybermob against one individual that the line is crossed into actionable cyberbullying.
One third of those surveyed reported being involved with sexting. Considered by some as this century’s method of flirting, its potential consequences aren’t taken seriously by many young people. However, consider the cases of 13 year-old Hope Witsell or 18 year-old Jessica Logan to see the tragic results of sexting.
The message here seems to be that only through education and an awareness about consequences of mean-spirited posts will our youth and adults put an end to all bullying: traditional and cyberbullying.
*Associated Press/MTV poll conducted between August 18 and August 31, 2011 of 1355 people nationwide.