Cyberbullying Panic?


Several high profile incidents have put cyberbullying at the top of the headlines in recent months.  When Sameer and I first started studying this problem over eight years ago, it was rare to see a cyberbullying story in the media, now they are everywhere.

Larry Magid, a technology journalist who contributes to a number of publications, both online and off, commented on cnet yesterday about the potential development of a “cyberbullying panic.”  We really appreciate his perspective on issues relating to teens and technology and especially the fact that he always supports his viewpoints and arguments with research.

He is right that the public can sometimes view a particular problem as epidemic in nature simply from one or two high profile incidents (for example, the school shootings of the late 1990s, or more recently the panic over online sexual predators).  And many in the media often fan the flames.  I basically agree with his thoughts on this and think he is right on in terms of encouraging teens (and adults) to acknowledge that most kids are not engaging in negative or risky or irresponsible behaviors online.  Research finds that about 20% of kids have been cyberbullied, or admit to cyberbullying others, at some point in their lifetime (this number varies considerably depending on how one measures cyberbullying).  Of course this means that 80% of kids are NOT involved in cyberbullying as an aggressor or target.

Many people ask me if the bullying problem is getting worse with technology.  I simply tell them that technology has allowed us to observe the bullying problem more clearly.  Kids have always been bullying each other.  But technology has brought it to the forefront because we can see exactly what is being done and said.  Historically, maybe, much of these bullying experiences would never come to the attention of adults – technology has made the problem more visible, for better *and* worse.  This visibility likely contributes to the overall harm caused, but also allows parents, school administers, and others to see it more precisely (and most are shocked, even though they too were once adolescents).  I also think that the media attention surrounding these and other high profile incidents over the last year or two (perhaps even the Megan Meier case) has resulted in more students coming forward about their bullying/cyberbullying experiences.  Our research over the last five years or so shows that more teens are now telling adults about their experiences with cyberbullying.  Now we just need to teach adults how to effectively deal with the problem once they are made aware.

We need to remember that most teens are doing great things online and are largely being responsible (our MySpace research shows this clearly).  The high profile examples certainly grab the headlines but represent the exception rather than the rule.  Of course, as Larry points out, that doesn’t mean we should ignore the problem.  It is hard to see a clear path to prevention and response in the midst of a panic.  Good solid research can help us to distill the fact from the fiction, and therefore should be the foundation of any policy and practice.  That said, the rare tragedy is often necessary to remind us of why it is so important to keep moving forward with respect to these issues.


  1. Thank you, Justin – the danger with "over-diagnosing" cyberbullying is that it will soon become "stale" and people won't pay attention to the actual incidents that must be categorized as such. I will probably be quoting you in an upcoming application for participation in a Human Rights Day at my university, you said it perfectly!

  2. One of the main things to consider is how many more kids are now owning their own cell phones and computers. This makes the opportunity to offend much easier. Will these behaviors escalate as it becomes ordinary for every child 9 and over to have their own phone or computer? Also,while educating the students will make them more aware of the dangers, it also teaches them a new way to offend that they may not have previously thought of. As usual, technology and education can be a double edged sword.Thanks for the comments. It is true that most kids are great kids and bad kids can become great kids, so never give up looking on the bright side!

  3. Headmaster bullying and terrorizing students in Berlin

    Once the Linden Elementary School * in Berlin Schöneberg a flagship school, pupils, teachers and parents was felt, though, what this might mean for the state of our education system today. But the progress was only good as long until the Chefmobber Hans P. became a school principal and a superior school board, Helmut R. had the backing of the working methods of "Hans" approved and covered, they were howling orgies, verbal abuse, harassment and sometimes blows has applied. A criminal complaint for violation of the duty of care never took place.

    For the head teacher's students were obviously "Dumb and empty heads", where you had to ever miss a Sap. With his ideas of education, the school head Hans S. no bones about it has kept, and this has been associated by the parents at Schulau meetings for discussion, but for a long time in vain. It even gave the school board, Helmut R., an official for life, as well as Hans P., and may not know everything, what is called Moobbing in our society.

    "The complaints hips" at Martina Rade, chairman of the district school board and member of Alliance 90/The Greens. Each school board meeting was crowded, because half the parents were there, Rade said. "(1) However, none of the complaints led to the desired action, and then had to suffer for students such as Tom.

    Hans P. had also so its special and typical old German views on the origin of his students and their skin color. "In September last year (have) said concerned parents for the first time that the school head a colored boy (Tom E.) as , Black man ' have described. Also he is to classmates denigrate have. (2) Somehow this reminds Carl Joseph of the United States, which had among other things, the wrong skin color. (4)

    "The parents went to the barricades, but only really when they are competent by Helmut R. school board did not feel taken seriously. The School Council have played down the problems, the parents say. From a letter from the district office shows that Helmut R. Finally, even in the school came to interview the students on the incidents. " (1)

    A different opinion as to deliver the mother of Tom. Then she had a Dienstaufsichtsbeschwerde filed against the school head Hans S.. "Thereon, the responsible school board (Helmut R.) at the Linden Elementary School and to several elementary school students in one- have questioned downright. Tom E.>> He has me and a friend put in a room, locked the door and questioned about our parents. <> Personal Affairs <> As my friend a piece of chalk is broken off, he has him by the Head pulled out of the classroomSaid Tom E <<. Sap is also a question. "(2) pull out of the classroom in which they seized him on the head, so can probably not be regarded as" Pat, this one needs a bit more force.

    Hans is now to be principals in S. Lichtenberg, there is one still very shocked by this news. "I have contact with concerned parents from this school and my neck hairs to stand on, as this head will come to us in Lichtenberg. Can you read the blog from me. LG (3)

    One wonders, really, what needs to happen, to be released until such incompetent teachers, teachers and head teachers simply left the service and when actually a prosecutor must be determined, we still have a Constitution, right?


    1)… art270, 3080277

    2 )

    3 )

    (link defunct)

    4 ) e2% 80% 93-and-school bullying victim-phoebe-prince-15-year commit-suicide /

  4. Das Problem von Cyber-Bullying ist international zu finden. Gerade Kids und Teens sind oft die idealen Opfer, bei Angriffen von Cyber-Mobbern haben sie oft Scham darüber zu reden, Angst ist ein weiterer Faktor und das Gefühl, man habe etwas falsch gemacht sind Tatsachen, die auch die Täter wissen.

    Im Umgang mit Cyberbulling beadrf es geschulter Ombudsfrauen und -männer, die wissen, wie man gegen Cybermobber vorgeht, und die auch Gespräche mit Opfern führen können.

    Kids und Teens sind höchsten junge Erwachsene, aber sind eben keine Erwachsenen in unser Welt, sie lernen es erst zu werden. Viele vergessen das immer wieder.

    Wir brauchen mehr "Erfahrungen und Berichte" zu Cyber-Bullying damit die Politik nicht länger schweigt.

    Harry Gambler, Germany

  5. "Translate ba Google, sorry!

    The problem of cyber-bullying can be found internationally. Just Kids and teens are often the perfect victim to attacks by cyber-bullies, they often have to talk about shame, fear is another factor and the feeling that you've done something wrong are the facts, know the perpetrators.

    In dealing with it Cyberbulling beadrf trained Ombudsperson and men who know how to do it against Cybermobber, and lead can also hold talks with victims.

    Kids and teens are most young adults, but adults are not just in our world, they learn to become the first place. Many forget that again and again.

    We need more "experiences and reports" on cyber-bullying to the policy is silent no longer.

    Gambler Harry, Germany

  6. According to the Pew Internet and Life Studies, 1/3 of Teens have been bullied online and a study in 2008 by the Journal of School Health states that 72% of respondents in a survey reported at least one online bullying incident. 90% said that they did not tell a adult about it. There is a reason to call cyberbullying an epidemic because it crosses many lines and has serious implications. Cyberbullying, Sexting, and Social Websites are all linked by common technology. In many cases cyberbullying takes on different forms that are not recognizable in the begining such as taunting, provoking arguments and embarassing in front of peers. Phoebe Prince was not only cyberbullyed but physically assulted. You can not escape the fact that parents are doing a poor job in regards to these potential threats. The schools are also not bearing enough responsibility teaching their students to the dangers of Internet Disassociation. In the Phoebe Prince case the school did nothing and that is unacceptable. We need more involvement by adults and a program in the schools comparable to sex education.

  7. With all the news about the children that commited suicide, it doesn't

    take a genius to see that this is gangstalking at the most elementry

    levels; the schools. And the children perpetrating the heinious

    actions learn their behavior from adults. Whether through the medium

    of television, the internet, music, movies, on the street, or worse

    yet, at home,it needs to stop NOW.

    I have become aware of an organization called Do, which

    can be utilized to begin a project, a movement to address an issue

    that helps aleviate a problem. Used to create awareness and give

    support to victims, bringing together numbers which is power.

    I would like you to look at the site "DO SOMETHING .ORG", then email

    me and let me know if you would be willing to get involved in a

    project to make the public aware that violence, bullying and

    gangstalking is a much bigger problem than a handful of isolated

    incidents that can be played down by politics. The children who were

    involved with the Columbine Massacre were bullied and so learned to

    bully. Awareness needs to come out of the proverbial closet.

    I really hope to hear from you.

    Much appreciation,


  8. simple. my kids do not have myspace or facebook accounts. period. if i find out they made one; they will not see use of their computer for entire year. if they beg they need it for a project; it can only be used supervised. period.

  9. The reality is that technology is and will continue to be with us. It then becomes the responsibility of parents to be involved in their child/children's lives to make sure they are using this technology appropriately. Computers should be in areas that are visible to everyone and parents should be able to stop and read or pull-up what their child has written. It is just good parenting to become knowledgeable in this area.

  10. I agree with jjv. Technology is here to stay. it makes all of our lives better, easier and sometimes worse. It is our responsibility as parents, school and community to help our young "know" the rules when it comes to the use of technology. As far as bullying, it has always been around. I think with technology, it makes it easier to bully, but it should also give the children who are being bullied the opportunity to produce the evidence. Whereas bulling in previous times was always when the adult wasn't looking. Parents need to step up to the plate and be aware of what their children are doing. Schools need to be notified when something happens, so they can monitor at school.

  11. What is the responsibility of social networking sites to respond to this? And how should thye respond. MY 15 year old is now the subject of a facebook Hate page, but their reporting system is rudimentary and the page remains even though I reported it two days ago.

    Fortunately my son seems to have some perspective (small number of students dislike him; page was put up by boy who likes his ex-girlfriend and is upset that she likes my son) Yet I feel that public humiliation of minors in particular, should not be allowed to persist. I worry about him because he would not have told me himself. Those who are bullied often feel shame –even though it is the perpetrators that should be ashamed of their behavior.

    Having been subjected to similar bullying as a child I may be extra sensitive to this. But most bullying fades from memory and because accessible to only a few people it disappears. Not on the Internet. If facebook won't take this down what recourse do I have?

  12. it is easy to focus on the 20% and perhaps there is good reason for that. as easy as the math is, I had never thought that means 80% of students are not currently affected by cyberbullying. In a way it might be a good thing that bullying is now more easily "witnessed" by authorities. since many physical bullies are also cyber bullies, this might cause more incidences of bullying to be dealt with. I wonder if it is possible that this new awareness might eventually lead to a lower rate of bullying behavior.

  13. I agree that with the media coverage cyber-bullying has become a hot-button issue but it is a very real and increasing issue. It is important to develop and continue with the technological advancements but when technology is being used to "bully" someone do we have more of a commitment to step in and pursue it? By the use of technology we can track, find and view things that were said long after the attack. Emails, text messages, blog posts, etc. never really go away. So the bullying changes from a "he said she said" to an actual account of the issue (e.g. text, email, etc.). In the schools…when the learning environment is disrupted by a cyber attack it is our duty to pursue it. It is suprising to me to see that only 20% of kids using technology have been involved in bullying (I would have guessed more). Technology is a wonderful teaching tool and I look forward to what the future brings. Hopefully we can keep the 80% of students using technology at that level or even better…bring that even closer to 100%. Thanks for all the great information!

  14. One problem I see in all this for educators is that although cyberbullying often occurs outside of school (both outside the building, and outside the school day) it does have an impact on the educational environment for our students. In the past, when bullying occurred in a school, it was in the form of observable behavior in school that could often be addressed using the school's discipline code. Now, with cyberbullying going on outside of school, it is more difficult for teachers, deans of students, and principals to observe the bullying behavior and deal with the person doing the bullying.

    We are left to do our best to educate all students and parents about appropriate uses of technology and about the potential harmful effects of cyberbullying

  15. The whole idea of policing cyberbulling seems very overwhelming. Similar to your more "traditional bullying", where do school's draw the line? When it happens outside of the school day, off school grounds/equipment, how involved should/can schools get involved? On advantage today (mentioned in earlier postings) when compared to policing traditional bullying in the past is that it helps the bullied plead their case with the electronic log of evidence. On the flipside, I think electronic communication gives people who seem harmless in person the bravery to be much more hurtful in the cyber world. I'm guessing this has created a large increase in the problem because of the anonymity and convenience.

    Similar to how criminal justice programs include specialized cybercrime units, how prepared should school administrators be in the area of cyberbullying? How much time should be dedicated to this (in an average work day) so that principals can be proactive before problems surface? It seems like the role of the principal is rapidly expanding beyond classroom and hallway behavior. What would be a realistic expectation?

  16. wow you guys are not smart how about you talk english yes i agree cyberbullying is getting out of hand if its to the point that are kids are taking their lives for nonsense but I personally blam the parents because if they raised young respectful children they wouldn't be calling eachother names.

  17. Technology has become embedded in the lives of so many teens. Despite the many benefits that technology provides, several inherent risks result as well. What makes these risks even more troublesome is the generational gap in technology proficiency between adults and adolescents. The Pew Internet & American Life Project's reports consist of extensive gathered data on teen’s use of technology. In a recent report, they found that as a means to protect their children parents are scrambling to catch up with this generation's technology sophistication. Additionally, parents are now turning to their child's cell phone as means of parenting, with many of them checking the phones periodically. They are also having trouble supervising their children's internet activity. Community lectures are being offered for parents where they sheepishly admit their deficiencies in technology knowledge. However, experts give them the know how to detect technology misuse among their adolescents.

  18. Cyberbullying can be defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices” (Hinduja and Patchin 5). Technology has become such an important part of our everyday lives, and it is rapidly becoming a new means of bullying. It appears as if teenagers engage in cyberbullying, unaware of the potential consequences. Even more disturbing to me, is the idea that many of these consequences are not visible on the outside, making it challenging to identify victims.

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