The Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health has released a report that indicates about one-third of children, ages 12 to 17, have been cyberbullied. Health officials say that kind of electronic harassment has all sorts of negative implications beyond the obvious ones.
The study information was released Wednesday as part of the department’s Public Health Fast Facts, an ongoing effort to help people understand and improve the health of the community.
Health experts have linked children’s use of electronic media to poorer sleep, depression, substance abuse and musculoskeletal problems. Heavy use of electronic devices also is known to cut down on physical activity which correlates with childhood obesity.
However another negative aspect of the use of electronic devices such as cell phones is the potential for cyberbullying. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, cyberbullying involves the use of technology by a young person to harass, threaten, embarrass or intimidate another young person. The delivery method can be text messages, email, social media and the posting of embarrassing pictures or videos on websites. Often fake profiles are created on social media sites.
- 70% of students report seeing frequent bullying online.
- Over 80% of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most common medium for cyber bullying.
- 68% of teens agree that cyber bullying is a serious problem.
- 81% of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person.
According to the study:
In typical bullying, the bully picks on victims who are smaller or socially isolated, whereas in cyberbullying, the bully/victim pair can be friends. They tend to belong to similar online communities and utilize the same social media sites. This social proximity of the bully/victim renders cyberbullying especially heinous by isolating the victim from his/her peers and social groups. Unlike typical bullying in the physical realm, the cloak of anonymity in the virtual space can complicate efforts to identify bullies and hinder remedial action.
When Indiana High School students were surveyed, almost one in five had experienced cyberbullying according to data from the Centers for Disease Control:
- Ever been electronically bullied in last year 19%
- Bullied on school property in last year 25%
Young persons who have been cyberbullied are significantly more likely than those who have not been victimized to:
- Use alcohol and other drugs
- Receive school detention or suspension
- Skip school
- Experience in-person victimization
- Have poor parental monitoring
- Have weak emotional bonds with their caregiver.
The study offered many suggestions on how parents can deal with cyberbullying:
- Monitor your child’s use of technology
- Discuss bullying with a teacher, school principal or guidance counselor
- Download the free app for sample conversation starters with your child and tips for recognizing signs, available at http://store.samhsa.gov/apps/bullying/
- To prevent exposure, limit screen time to two hours a day for children ages 3-18