Study: Nearly One-Third of CNY Teens Say They've Been Cyberbullied
A study of cyber bullying in Central New York finds nearly one third of teens report being bullied online. That’s a bit higher than the 26 percent of teens surveyed across Upstate New York. Siena College Research Institute President Dr. Don Levy says the numbers are probably understated.
"I think it's a bit of a wake-up call for school officials, for parents," Levy said. "As much as they think they're doing, they have to do more. They have to somehow come up with a way to cross this divide to provide students with a way to say that they're equipped to say to one another, "no that's not acceptable behavior, we don’t do that'."
Levy says there's a bit of a disconnect between what parents know what what teens might be doing online.
"We have parents who've said certainly, I do everything," Levy said. "'I know my kids passwords. I have an app on the phone that shows me where they go'. But 30 percent of the kids say their parents are clueless, they have no idea what I'm doing."
Levy says we’ve equipped teens with extraordinary communication tools, but we haven’t done enough to equip them with the social and psychological skills to handle those tools. As a result, he says, the damage can be devastating.
"As soon as everybody in the school has that image or definition of them, to them, that's the entire world. You as the parent who says, 'oh, don't worry about it, it'll go away,' it doesn't feel like that."
Jane Clementi knows that feeling all too well. Her son Tyler committed suicide in 2010 at age 18 after a college roommate humiliated him on social media. She founded the Tyler Clementi Foundation to end bullying in schools and workplaces, and is working with Siena and AT&T on the study. She feels the nation has taken a few steps backward regarding the responsible use of social media. Without naming names, Clementi notes the recent campaign cycle..
"It's just trickling down everywhere," Clementi said. "We need to take responsibility and ownership of that poor behavior and move forward from here, calling out the bad behavior and mean spirited chatter that has happened on the internet this past political season."
Clementi says in bullying, there's often a power imbalance, with more bystanders than bullies.
"Research shows 80 percent of the time there are bystanders in a situation. That's where the power is and can be," Clementi said. "Certainly, when you're being targeted at a vulnerable place, and your reality is spiraling out of control, you need to have someone stand behind you and support you. That's where we think becoming an 'upstander' is critical."
Clementi says setting boundaries is essential when it comes to harassing people for their sexual orientation, skin color, appearance, gender, religion, or any other difference. The foundation will work with AT&T by crossing the country and educating students, parents, and educators about the pervasiveness of cyber bullying.