Harris Interactive Research: How Cyberbullying is Shaping Youth Savvy

cyberbullyicon.jpgThumbs down to cyberbullying! It’s heartening to finally hear some GOOD news to counter-balance the media hype on this harassment.

Totally Wired author and über youth guru Anastasia Goodstein flagged the new Harris Interactive research and National Crime Prevention Council report on cyberbullying in this article, adding much needed perspective.

Not to belittle damaging incidents whatsoever (peer to peer bullying can wound and destroy kids’ self-worth) but it’s encouraging to paint the reality of cyberbullying with a broader brushstroke, get tips, and be aware of what adults can do too. This study addresses kids’ increasing savvy in electronic media power, using blocking, deleting, and online intervention as cyber-solutions to boot the offending ISP to kingdom come by reporting incidents to moderators.

Useful forums like BlogSafety give kids timely feedback on how to delete social networking profiles that have gone astray, photos that have been Shanghai-ed and posted in lousy, hurtful ways, and snuff out revenge-fests with a ping to the right resource. (We wrote more about this here)

Free resource swapping on social networking sites like Stop Cyberbullying have also brought together a fabulous team of leaders concerned with this issue, sharing ideas, solutions, progress, and reality checks from the youth trenches. (Here’s my Shaping Youth profile page come join us!)

Attention to policy and practices are precluding safety snafus in GPS tracking locators and cyberbully technology interventions are popping up, as we wrote about here with new phone services like Jangl. (anonymous code swaps in lieu of numbers make it easy to hit the ‘delete’ key and have an entire relationship go silent)

As for the statistics themselves? Again, very encouraging…

Though 43% of the students they interviewed reported having been “cyberbullied” in the past year, 71% blocked it, 62% wouldn’t forward messages, and 56% immediately took action to stop it. And though 56% felt angry, hurt (33%) or embarrased (32%) only 13% actually felt “scared,” with less than one in four cyberbullies “unknown” to them from chat rooms.

Kids are twice as likely to talk to their peers about cyberbullying than their parents, taking individual action to harness media tools and flip the power in a positive direction…sort of a life-hacking form of self-preservation.

We need to encourage more sharing with adults to raise awareness here, as there are excellent resources among us!

Most kids we work with have handled hassles by closing their email accounts and reopening new ones, changing their MySpace, Bebo or Xanga name & profile settings to private, and seeking adult help when they feel out of their league.

My own tween didn’t have a “cyberbullying” case as much as a chilling viral chain letter which creeped her out saying “if you don’t pass it along to ten other people your phone will ring and you’ll die at 3:15am” or some equally audacious claim.

She was clearly disturbed, told the girl to “stop sending garbage like that” and was edgy enough about it to wake up the next morning with residual angst, saying, “Mom! I didn’t die!”

Proof that electronic torment comes in a variety of forms, yet this ALSO validates the research of how she handled it sans intervention!

She’s only 11, but she hit delete, told the girl to knock it off, and even sent the girl to a ‘hoax page’ as a follow-up later. (after I heard about it/provided the link)

Cyberbullying seems “under control” by savvy youth much more often than is reported.

Still, it’s a disturbing part of online culture, much more prevalent than the “stranger danger” issue blown out of context with the To Catch A Predator “reality show” and media’s penchant for focusing on sensationalized extremes.

Peer to peer provocation clearly has a higher incident rate and merits circumspection to remain ‘on our toes’ about new ways to combat the ‘culture of mean’ seeping out like media poison by the millions in viewer hits like American Idol and Survivor.

Barbara Coloroso addresses some of this in her book “Bully, The Bullied, and the Bystander” and Anastasia devotes a considerable amount of text to this in Totally Wired.

Which reminds me, my promised interview with Anastasia is still forthcoming, (I’ve been blog backlogged!) but meanwhile, here’s a great review of her book from NetFamily News.

Meanwhile, stay tuned and ‘totally wired’ to keep abreast of what’s going on in youth culture.

Parents choosing not to ‘plug-in’ to what’s going on, will ultimately do so at their own peril.

Yes…That was an example of an “extreme” fear-based media maneuver to jolt you into paying attention via word choice. I call it ‘poignant propaganda’ or “alarm bait.”

Now tell me…Did it work?



  1. Hi Amy,

    Thank you for spreading the word, again, on cyberbullying. I think you know that Jangl isn’t one of those company’s founded by 20-somethings — a few of us here are relative old-timers, and many of us have kids in that pre-tweener/teenager range. The net result? We don’t just try to design services that offer control over the online/phone experience. . .we worry about this kind of stuff, as parents, and we’re teaching about it daily and hovering over shoulders when we need to be. So this is near-and-dear to our hearts.

    We’ve spent a long time working directly with customers in building the current service and I’m happy to report that in a few short weeks we’ll be rolling out new things, to more people, that will offer more connection and more control.

    Keep up the great work — we’ll be in touch shortly.

    tim @ jangl

  2. Hey Tim, yep, I met Michael Cerda at Guidewire Group’s Leadership Forum and he actually gave me the scoop on how Jangl can be used as a pragmatic buffer for online dating, and other casual acquaintances.

    We’re big on media literacy here, and opportunities to smooth out the “jangled nerves” of parents amidst surround-sound behavioral messaging, so I’m glad you guys see all sides of the conversation, and are designing accordingly.

    No doubt ALL ages will benefit, not just youth, so keep us in the loop as to what’s on your horizon! Best, Amy

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