Online harassment: Not telling parents

Wow, I've never seen a number this high in relation to online harassment. Psychologists at UCLA report that 72% of 12-to-17-year-olds they surveyed were "bullied online at least once during a recent 12-month period," "only one in 10 reported such cyber-bullying to parents or other adults," and 85% "also experienced bullying in school." The harassment most frequently took the forms of "name-calling or insults" and "most typically took place through instant messaging." A bit more on frequency of incidents: The study found that 41% of teens surveyed reported 1-3 "bullying incidents" during those 12 months, 13% 4-6 incidents, and 19% seven or more. About two-thirds of the harassment victims knew their harassers and half knew them from school. The authors reinforced this finding with the point that "the Internet is not functioning as a separate environment but is connected with the social lives of kids in school."

Let's look at the part about not telling parents: The most common reason cited by the teens surveyed was interesting: They said they "believe they 'need to learn to deal with it.'" Next (31%) was the one I would've expected to top the list: parents might restrict their Net access. "This concern was especially common among girls between the ages of 12 and 14, with 46% fearing restrictions, compared with 27% of boys in the same age group," the authors said. No. 3 among younger teens was the fear of "getting in trouble." Here's a good heads-up from lead researcher Jaana Juvonen: "Many parents do not understand how vital the Internet is to their social lives. Parents can take detrimental action with good intentions, such as trying to protect their children by not letting them use the Internet at all. That is not likely to help parent-teen relationships or the social lives of their children."

In its coverage, CNET asks the intelligent question: "It's important to teach children the importance of not becoming bullies themselves, is it not?" The answer, from an analysis by the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, is yes: "Youth who engage in online aggressive behavior by making rude or nasty comments or frequently embarrassing others are more than twice as likely to report online interpersonal victimization," CACRC researchers wrote in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The UCLA study appears in the latest issue of the Journal of School Health. [See also "'Cyberbullying' better defined."]

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