Cyberbullying Research Center
Newsletter - September 2013
Welcome to the Cyberbullying Research Center email newsletter! The Cyberbullying Research Center is dedicated to providing up-to-date information about the nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents. We provide tons of free information on our newly updated
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Can Someone be an Unintentional Bully?
Defining bullying is a tricky thing. And technology just adds another complicated layer to the whole situation. I mean, we know it when we see it, and at the extreme end it’s easy to identify: the repeated threats, multiple humiliating posts, and numerous hurtful texts most likely qualify. But what about that mildly inappropriate joke directed at no one in particular? Or the post that reads “I’m going to kill you. jk. LOL.”? Everyone seems to have a slightly different perspective when it comes to whether or not to categorize a particular experience as bullying.
Hannah Smith: Even More Tragic Than Originally Thought
Many are now familiar with the tragic case of Hannah Smith, the 14-year-old from Leicestershire, England, who hanged herself on August 2nd after reportedly being harassed online for months. Cruel messages received principally on the social media site Ask.fm are being cited by her father and others as a primary cause of the suicide, though rarely is it that simple. Even though our research has shown that experience with bullying (whether online or off, and whether as a target or perpetrator) is associated with an elevated risk of depression and suicidal thoughts, this is far from proving that bullying causes suicide. Peer harassment is just one of many factors that contribute to increased risk of suicide. As we concluded in our paper “…it is unlikely that experience with cyberbullying by itself leads to youth suicide. Rather, it tends to exacerbate instability and hopelessness in the minds of adolescents already struggling with stressful life circumstances.” After her death, Hannah’s father found a note that read: “As I sit here day by day I wonder if it’s going to get better. I want to die, I want to be free. I can’t live like this any more. I’m not happy.” Hopeless indeed.
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What Teens Are Doing Online
Some adults are under the assumption that just about everything that teens do online is either hurtful to themselves or others or a complete waste of time. To be fair, there’s no shortage of daily headlines that seem to point to the conclusion that many teens are using technology irresponsibly. But the reality is that those stories represent a small part of what most teens are doing in cyberspace. For example, very few young people are trolling chat rooms looking to meet new friends. Most teens use computers, and more often mobile phones, to interact with others whom they know in real life. Sometimes they are communicating with friends of friends or “strangers” while playing online games, but generally they are connected to those they know. According to recent data released by the Pew Internet & American Life project, 60 percent of teen Facebookers have their profiles restricted to friends only and nearly three-quarters have deleted people from their friends list. So in short, most teens are using social media conscientiously.
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