Cyberbullying Research Center https://cyberbullying.org Bullying and Cyberbullying Resources, Research, and Help Fri, 20 Nov 2020 14:16:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 TikTok: Top Ten Tips for Teens https://cyberbullying.org/tiktok-tips https://cyberbullying.org/tiktok-tips#respond Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:11:42 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=31893 (For a formatted .pdf version of this article for distribution, click on the image above [or click here]). TikTok is a fun video app that has exploded in popularity across the world. Below we offer some tips for using it safely and responsibly. 1. YOUR ACCOUNT DEFAULTS TO PUBLIC. Set it to private if you…

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(For a formatted .pdf version of this article for distribution, click on the image above [or click here]).

TikTok is a fun video app that has exploded in popularity across the world. Below we offer some tips for using it safely and responsibly.

1. YOUR ACCOUNT DEFAULTS TO PUBLIC. Set it to private if you don’t want everyone to have access to your videos and comments.

2. RESIST FROM POSTING PERSONAL OR PRIVATE INFORMATION (phone number, address, birthdate) in your videos or on your profile.

3. YOU CAN AUTOMATICALLY HIDE COMMENTS THAT MAY BE SPAMMY OR INAPPROPRIATE. You can also filter comments based on your own personal keywords. Check your Settings.

4. YOU CAN CONTROL WHO CAN COMMENT ON YOUR VIDEOS. Adjust privacy settings to your level of comfort about who can interact with you on the app (Everyone, Friends, No one).

5. REMEMBER THAT UNLESS YOU’RE FOLLOWING SOMEONE AND THEY ARE FOLLOWING YOU, THEY CAN’T DM (DIRECT MESSAGE) YOU. So, if you’re receiving a lot of unwanted messages in your inbox, unfollow those people! By default, those under 16 cannot DM.

6. RESTRICTED MODE WILL HELP KEEP YOUR FOR YOU PAGE MORE KID-FRIENDLY THAN OTHERWISE. You can enable it under Settings, and Digital Well-Being.

7. TAKE THE TIME TO REPORT PROBLEMATIC TIKTOKS (by clicking “Share” and then “Report”), as well as problematic comments (hold your finger on the comment to see a Report option).

8. STAY IN CONTROL OF THE QUALITY OF YOUR TIKTOK EXPERIENCE by blocking a user who troubles you in any way. This can be done by going to their profile, tapping the three dots in the top right corner, and selecting “Block.”

9. YOU CAN CONTROL WHO CAN DUET, STITCH, AND REACT TO YOUR VIDEOS See Privacy Settings to set it to Everyone, Friends, or No one.

10. COMMENT WITH CARE. Resist commenting in a way that is threatening or hurtful in any way. Sarcasm might also be misinterpreted, and so lean in the direction of being kind. Basically, try not to be a jerk towards others!

Citation information: Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J.W. (2020). TikTok: Top Ten Tips for Teens. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved (insert date), from https://cyberbullying.org/Top-Ten-Tips-Teens-TikTok.pdf

Keywords: TikTok, online safety, digital reputation, social networking, apps

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Digital Resilience https://cyberbullying.org/digital-resilience https://cyberbullying.org/digital-resilience#respond Tue, 17 Nov 2020 20:12:08 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=31763 We define digital resilience as “positive attitudes and actions in the face of interpersonal adversity online.” While adversity can arise from technological sources as well (e.g., hard drive crashes, forgotten passwords, vulnerable cloud accounts), we are primarily concerned with the social aspect of online interactions that induce anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, embarrassment, and similar outcomes.…

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We define digital resilience as “positive attitudes and actions in the face of interpersonal adversity online.” While adversity can arise from technological sources as well (e.g., hard drive crashes, forgotten passwords, vulnerable cloud accounts), we are primarily concerned with the social aspect of online interactions that induce anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, embarrassment, and similar outcomes.

Digital resilience is something that I’ve been thinking about for a few years, especially in the context of finding an answer to what social media companies can do to reduce the effects of toxicity and cyberbullying on their apps. (Before I continue though – a brief caveat: I don’t like slapping the word “digital” on various concepts, as we need to focus on “citizenship” and “civility” and “literacy” and “resilience” in all spheres of life, not just online. But we’re finding something unique here – which I’ll explain below.)

We define digital resilience as “positive attitudes and actions in the face of interpersonal adversity online.”

In 2017, Justin and I published a paper on (traditional) resilience, defined as “the capacity to spring back, rebound, successfully adapt in the face of adversity, and develop social and academic competence despite exposure to severe stress…or simply the stress of today’s world.” Since then, we’ve spoken on the topic multiple times, and audiences have been very receptive to the research-informed, resilience-building strategies we share. It’s become an integral part of our comprehensive message, and we believe it’s making a difference.

However, I have had the nagging suspicion that there was more to be uncovered. The way that we previously measured resilience was based on traditional, validated measures of resilience that focus on offline behaviors (see the study here). They included these items:

  • I am able to adapt when changes occur.
  • I can deal with whatever comes my way.
  • I try to see the humorous side of things when I am faced with problems.
  • Having to cope with stress makes me stronger.
  • I tend to bounce back after illness, injury, or other hardships.
  • I believe I can achieve my goals, even if there are obstacles.
  • Under pressure, I stay focused and think clearly.
  • I am not easily discouraged by failure.
  • I think of myself as a strong person when dealing with life’s challenges/difficulties.
  • I am able to handle unpleasant or painful feelings like sadness, fear, and anger.

Using these measures, we found that the lower students scored on their level of resilience, the more likely they were to:

  • be significantly negatively impacted at school by bullying
  • be significantly negatively impacted by cyberbullying
  • get sad, angry, frustrated, fearful, or embarrassed as a result of bullying
  • suffer silently and do nothing to improve their situation when bullied

Moving forward, though, I felt like we needed to create some measures of resilience specific to online interpersonal adversity. And if we identified some relevance to cyberbullying with any of these new measures, it may inform what social media companies do to cultivate digital resilience among users (or, at the very least, keep them from unknowingly lowering the resilience of users because of the app design, feature-set, or user experience).

Our Theory

We think there may be something qualitatively different about resilience online when compared to resilience offline. Perhaps a parallel can be drawn to the concept of road rage, which is a type of intermittent explosive disorder that occurs within a unique environment (in a vehicle, while driving). That is, you have an irrational, affective response that hijacks any rational, cognitive response you might want to have. Basically, heavy, negative emotions take over and you internalize and externalize in maladaptive and even harmful ways – harmful to yourself, and harmful towards others. And bam: you have road rage.

This begs the question: Is the Internet, social media, and video gaming a similarly unique environment in which these heavy negative emotions take over, affect you deeply, and contribute to impulsive maladaptive and harmful coping?

If so, how can we encourage healthier and more productive overcoming instead when faced with various forms of online adversity?

Digital Resilience Measures

With this in mind, Justin and I came up with four new measures that assess one’s level of  “digital resilience,” and included them in our most recent survey of teens:

  • When someone says something hurtful to me online, I can easily laugh it off.
  • I am easily frustrated when communicating with people online.
  • I find myself responding quickly to emails, text messages, or online posts that make me
    upset.
  • When I have a bad experience online, it sticks with me for a long time.

We then measured these against the amount of harm a target felt or experienced from cyberbullying.

Among the middle and high schoolers who had been cyberbullied, those who scored in the top 25% on digital resilience were significantly less hurt and bothered by the cyberbullying experience. In addition, those with average resilience fared significantly better than those with the lowest levels of resilience when it came to how much a student was negatively affected by cyberbullying.  

Among the middle and high schoolers who had been cyberbullied, those who scored in the top 25% on digital resilience were significantly less hurt and bothered by the cyberbullying experience.

Practical Implications to Promote Digital Resilience

So what does this mean? How can this translate into what social media companies do? Here are some ideas:

Resilience-themed messaging and campaigns

1. I would love to see more specific messaging and campaigns to remind users to not let others ruin their online experience, to not give others power if they are being a troll or a jerk, and to remember their own agency and autonomy to control their audience and interactions in-app. I also think that interstitials can be used within various feeds which are bite-sized, punchy, and aesthetically-pleasing and that regularly remind users to refrain from “taking the bait” when others are pressing their emotional buttons. These can offer memorable advice that conveys sentiments like “Keep calm and don’t feed the trolls” and “Is it really worth arguing about that, with them?” and “Don’t let your emotions get the best of you” and “Don’t let anyone live rent-free in your head” and “if they’re toxic, it’s not worth it” and “kill ‘em with kindness.” Focus groups can be held to determine the best wording and approach. In recent months, we have seen some major apps provide in-app messages to users to remind them to be respectful (e.g., YouTube comments), be kind (e.g., Instagram), take breaks (e.g., TikTok), and practice a digital detox (e.g., Bumble). I applaud these initiatives and hope they are making a meaningful difference; although we need to do research to measure its true impact. The point though, is that these reminders can bring a user out of an emotional storm back into a place of rationality, calmness, and control.  

Counterspeech tactics

2. It may be time for social media companies to intentionally equip users with points of counterspeech – which are tactics designed to counter hate speech or misinformation (instead of only censoring/blocking them). This way, those users will be proactively equipped to deal with online hate and abuse, rendering them more resilient when it happens. To promote resilience, companies can remind them that:

  • users should feel free to denounce hateful speech and actions, because the app/company does as well.
  • users can counter any chilling effect that stems from targeted abuse on platforms by speaking up, so that others are emboldened to speak up and seek help when they fear or suffer abuse.
  • users have the power to shape the climate through more intentional demonstrations of kindness, tolerance, mutual respect, and civility
  • overtly supporting other users of varying demographics and backgrounds through posts, comments, and actions builds solidarity and community
  • sharing stories of overcoming harassment by others can encourage and empower others to do the same
  • humor and memes can be useful in defusing online conflict, or at least to deflect and distract

Empowerment to raise awareness and change norms

3. Users should know that they can use the app itself to draw attention to cyberbullying, abuse, xenophobia, and other forms of abuse, to educate others about the problematic user and action(s), and to change norms. Some examples (thanks, Daniel Jones and Susan Benesch!) include ByeFelipe on Instagram (which shares screenshots submitted by users of men lashing out after being romantically rejected) and YesYoureRacist which shares racist posts in an attempt to shine a continual spotlight on its reality and harmful implications. Tagging problematic posts and comments with pointed hashtags can also be used to label and more widely publicize instances of hatred and abuse online – and should be employed so that users bent on targeting and victimizing others are not left to operate in the shadows.

In the near future, we will conduct more research to better understand what can foster digital resilience, and what tends to detract from it. We are excited by these initial exploratory findings, and hope to collaborate with social media companies to translate the results to policy and practice. The bottom line is that we must continue to do more to help users who face online adversity keep from internalizing it in ways that compromises their mental health, well-being, and continued participation in these communities, and from externalizing it in ways that hurt others online.

Image source: https://bit.ly/3pFLCxR

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Coaches, Student Athletes, and the Misuse of Social Media https://cyberbullying.org/coaches-student-athletes-misuse-social-media https://cyberbullying.org/coaches-student-athletes-misuse-social-media#respond Sat, 07 Nov 2020 05:50:46 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=18544 This talk helps coaches know what to convey to student athletes about their digital reputation and online choices so they are best positioned for their future.

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NOTE: Since April 2020, we have been offering every one of our presentations and trainings in virtual modalities (e.g., Zoom, WebEx, Teams, Hopin, Skype). Reach out if you need specifics, as we’ve optimized the way we engage with our audiences from afar!


With each new year, coaches are increasingly dealing with the challenges of social media. This can include inappropriate, unethical, and even illegal student-athlete conduct directly or indirectly related to their online communications. Recently, some schools are even mandating that informal or formal monitoring of students takes place by coaches, but not providing clear guidance on how to handle the delicate nuances of that burden. It is therefore essential that coaches know how best to navigate these complex and uncertain times, as well as how to engage with their high school recruits, current players, and own support staff in the most socially-appropriate and productive ways – while still providing socio-emotional support and mentorship.

Key issues discussed: online reputation management; online integrity; using social media to attract positive attention; social media overuse and addiction; sexting; digital dating abuse; revenge porn; cyberbullying; catfishing

Delivered in a positive, culturally-relevant, and hopeful tone with the use of flash polling, videos, and case studies, this presentation will help coaches and their staff:

  • Gain familiarity with the most popular apps, sites, and networks being used
  • Determine if/when to get involved in the “private” online activities of potential and current student-athletes
  • Learn how to create and maintain a positive digital reputation, and understand who and what they represent at all times
  • Foster a culture of wisdom and discretion in the social media posts and related interactions among students and staff
  • Assist students who have experienced cyberbullying, digital dating violence, sexting, revenge porn, or another victimization
    Understand what exactly is permissible concerning online communications between adults in positions of power/authority and their student athletes
  • Avoid all perceptions of impropriety in interactions with student athletes, particularly via texting and social media
  • Create and implement an intentional plan of action to prevent financial and reputational liability and fallout

(60-75 minutes)

Here are numerous testimonials from schools and other organizations with whom we have worked.
Contact us today to discuss how we can work together!

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AI Solutions to Cyberbullying and Social Media Abuse https://cyberbullying.org/ai-machine-learning-cyberbullying-social-media-abuse https://cyberbullying.org/ai-machine-learning-cyberbullying-social-media-abuse#respond Wed, 04 Nov 2020 06:36:05 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=24733 We discuss how developments in AI through machine learning can help reduce cyberbullying and toxicity online, and promote the positive use of social media over time.

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NOTE: Since April 2020, we have been offering every one of our presentations and trainings in virtual modalities (e.g., Zoom, WebEx, Teams, Hopin, Skype). Reach out if you need specifics, as we’ve optimized the way we engage with our audiences from afar!


Our professional lives focus on promoting civility and preventing toxicity online, especially among youth. By intersecting social science with computer science, we have been able to make strides in this area. With regard to artificial intelligence (AI), the overarching goal is to preempt victimization by:

  • identifying (and blocking, banning, or quarantining) the most problematic users and accounts
  • immediately collapsing or deleting content that algorithms predictively flag and label as abusive
  • promoting, elevating, or otherwise incentivizing civility and respect
  • otherwise controlling the posting, sharing, or sending or messages that violate appropriate standards of behavior online.

Since most all of us are on social media, we’ve witnessed (and perhaps even experienced) the haters, harassers, and trolls. It’s deeply upsetting, but progress is being made. We will explore the types of behaviors we’re trying to eliminate, and the ways we’re seeking to enhance the mental health and well-being of all users through AI. We’ll also discuss the challenges we face, and why this is an imperfect science. Ultimately, we want everyone to have positive experiences online, rather than being silenced, harassed, or otherwise victimized. AI can help, but it’s going to take some time.

(60 minutes)

Here are numerous testimonials from schools and other organizations with whom we have worked.
Contact us today to discuss how we can work together!

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What To Do When Your Child Cyberbullies Others: Top Ten Tips for Parents https://cyberbullying.org/what-to-do-when-your-child-cyberbullies-others https://cyberbullying.org/what-to-do-when-your-child-cyberbullies-others#comments Thu, 22 Oct 2020 11:47:00 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=4791 (For a formatted .pdf version of this article for distribution, click on the image above [or click here]). Spanish Translation Available Here Finding out that your child is mistreating others online can be frustrating. Here’s how to respond: 1. ACKNOWLEDGE THE ISSUE. As a parent, accept the reality that your child could be engaging in…

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(For a formatted .pdf version of this article for distribution, click on the image above [or click here]).

Spanish Translation Available Here

Finding out that your child is mistreating others online can be frustrating. Here’s how to respond:

1. ACKNOWLEDGE THE ISSUE. As a parent, accept the reality that your child could be engaging in online behaviors that are hurting others. Rather than try to trivialize, rationalize, or ignore the problem at hand, realize that anyone (including your own flesh and blood!) can be cruel to others, given the right circumstances.

2. REMAIN CALM. When addressing cyberbullying, try to discuss the issue in a level-headed manner without demonizing, disrespecting, or judging your child. Remember that your son or daughter isn’t the problem; their behavior is. Deal with it, but treat them with dignity. Otherwise, they may lash out and retaliate if they feel attacked or victimized themselves, and no progress will be made.

3. KEEP AN OPEN LINE OF COMMUNICATION. Many youth engage in cyberbullying to get revenge for something someone else did first. Make sure that your kids know that they can come to you and discuss issues they are having with peers (offline or online). Give children the opportunity and skillset to solve interpersonal problems in appropriate ways, instead of resorting to revenge.

4. STOP THE BULLYING. Goal #1 is to get the bullying to end and never happen again. Ensure that all instances of bullying are stopped immediately, regardless of who started it. No one deserves to be mistreated, for any reason, ever.

5. UNDERSTAND THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM. We hear that “hurt people hurt people.” It is critical to identify the reason(s) your child has acted out. Is it an unhealthy way of coping with stress in their life? Because they themselves are being victimized? Because there are no rules in place, and no threat of sanctions to deter them? Try to get to the bottom of the issue.

6. INVESTIGATE. Take measures to thoroughly find out the extent of your child’s bullying. It could span multiple environments, websites, apps,
and devices. It could be very direct and observable, or indirect and extremely subtle. Work to fully understand what happened and where.

7. MAKE CHILDREN UNDERSTAND HOW TARGETS FEEL. Explain the severity of cyberbullying and how it would feel to be on the receiving end of hate or harassment with an example specific to how your child would be hurt the most. Try to cultivate empathy and compassion in kids in creative and compelling ways, so that they really understand that we all have our sore spots, hot buttons, and vulnerabilities.

8. SET UP PARENTAL CONTROLS. Monitor your child’s online activities, both formally and informally. This can be done through the installation of software or apps on their laptop, tablet, or phone. You should also routinely and randomly check their devices to see what they are doing, at least until you feel sure that they can be trusted.

9. SHARE YOUR CONCERNS. You are not the only parent who has ever faced these problems. Connect with others so that the entire community can rally around the issue and take a stand. This united front can help to create and promote a culture where all members of a peer group recognize that bullying is always wrong and never justifiable.

10. STAY EDUCATED. While we know that your lives are extremely busy, it is important that you take time to continually learn about new technologies and sites that your kids (and their peers) are using. You should also know where to get help (such as cyberbullying.org), and interface with others (especially school staff) who have relevant experiences and strategies to share.

Citation information: Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J.W. (2018). What To Do When Your Child Cyberbullies Others: Top Tips for Parents. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved (insert date), from https://cyberbullying.org/tips-for-parents-when-your-child-cyberbullies-others.pdf

Keywords: cyberbullying; parents; aggressor, offender, bully

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2020 Tween Data https://cyberbullying.org/2020-tween-data https://cyberbullying.org/2020-tween-data#respond Wed, 14 Oct 2020 16:57:34 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=30963 In recent years, cyberbullying has become an all-too familiar social problem that many families, communities, schools, and other youth-serving organizations have had to face head-on. Defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices,” cyberbullying often appears as hurtful social media posts, mean statements made while…

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In recent years, cyberbullying has become an all-too familiar social problem that many families, communities, schools, and other youth-serving organizations have had to face head-on. Defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices,” cyberbullying often appears as hurtful social media posts, mean statements made while gaming, hate accounts created to embarrass, threaten, or abuse, or similar forms of cruelty and meanness online. Over the last fifteen years, research on teens (typically middle and high schoolers) has shown that those who have been cyberbullied – as well as those who cyberbully others – are more likely to struggle academically, emotionally, psychologically, and even behaviorally.

With all of the progress that has been made to better understand cyberbullying among teens, very little is known about the behaviors as they occur among tweens: that momentous developmental stage that occurs roughly between the ages of 9 and 12 years old. To our knowledge, no previous research has explored cyberbullying among tweens across the United States. We do know that young children’s access to and ownership of mobile devices is on the increase, and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 may have elevated these numbers even more because of stay-at-home orders and online learning across the United States. It stands to reason, then, that cyberbullying is likely occurring among tweens, and obtaining an accurate picture of its scope can help move us toward more informed responses.

This study explored bullying and cyberbullying behaviors, as well as social media and app usage among a probability-based representative national sample of 1,034 tweens in the United States. Data were collected in June and July of 2020.

Full Report
Executive Summary

Blog posts based on this data set:

Tween Social Media and Gaming in 2020 (October 14, 2020)
Tween Cyberbullying in the United States (October 7, 2020)

Methodology

This report presents the results of a nationally representative survey of 1,034 children between the ages of 9 and 12 years-old. The survey was conducted online from June 19 through July 6, 2020, and was fielded by Ipsos using their probability-based KnowledgePanel. KnowledgePanel is the largest online panel that is representative of the U.S. population. KnowledgePanel recruitment employs an addressed-based sampling methodology from the United States Postal Service’s Delivery Sequence File—a database with full coverage of all delivery points in the U.S. As such, samples from KnowledgePanel cover all households regardless of their phone status. Member households without Internet access are furnished with a free computing device and Internet service. KnowledgePanel members are randomly recruited through probability-based sampling, and panel members are randomly selected so that survey results can properly represent the U.S. population with a measurable level of accuracy, features that are not obtainable from nonprobability panels. Ipsos currently recruits panel members by using address-based sampling methods (the firm previously relied on random-digit dialing for recruitment). Households without Internet connection are provided with a web-enabled device and free Internet service. In contrast, “convenience” or “opt-in” surveys recruit participants through emails, word-of-mouth, pop-up ads online, or other non-scientific methods.

The sample for this survey includes 9- to 12-year-olds who attend public or private schools. Home schooled children were excluded from the sample. For each child, parental permission was obtained; once the parent had consented, child assent was obtained as well. The survey was offered in English or Spanish. The final dataset is weighted to reflect benchmarks obtained from the 2019 March Supplement of the Current Population Survey (CPS). The 2018 American Community Survey (ACS) was used to obtain language proficiency benchmarks to adjust weights of Hispanic respondents. The margin of error due to design effect at the 95% confidence level is +/- 3.45% for the full sample. The response rate for this study was 44%. Missing data were excluded by analysis, with no individual bullying or cyberbullying variable having more than 5 missing cases.

Definitions

Operationalizations of bullying and cyberbullying vary widely from one study to the next.40 For this study, bullying was defined as: “Bullying is when someone repeatedly hurts someone else on purpose, such as pushing, hitting, kicking, or holding them down. Bullying can also be when someone calls people mean names, spreads rumors about them, takes or breaks something that belongs to them, or leaves them out of activities on purpose, over and over again. Those who bully others are usually stronger, or have more friends or more money, or some other power over the person being bullied. Bullying can happen in person or can happen online, including cyberbullying.” Cyberbullying was defined as: “Cyberbullying is when someone repeatedly bullies or makes fun of another person (on purpose to hurt them) online or while using cell phones or other electronic devices while playing online games or chatting with others.” These definitions were presented to respondents in text and audio format.

Instrument Development and Refinement

The questionnaire was developed by Justin W. Patchin and Sameer Hinduja. Specific items from the 2017 Cartoon Network survey of tweens were included in the current study to allow for comparisons. The draft instrument was then tested among a sample of children at the younger end of the target population. In-depth phone discussions were convened with nine children between the ages of 8 ½ and 10 (5 boys and 4 girls) March 26-31, 2020. These children were recruited from and interviewed by New Amsterdam Consulting, Inc., and all resided in the Phoenix, Arizona area. The goal of these interviews was to assess the age-appropriateness of the questionnaire. Children were sent a copy of the instrument and asked to identify words or phrases they did not understand. They were also asked to read critical passages of the proposed survey so that their comprehension could be evaluated. Minor changes were made to the questionnaire as a result of this feedback.

The questionnaire was next pre-tested among as sample of 25 respondents from June 5 to June 10, 2020. No irregularities were observed and we moved forward with full distribution of the questionnaire.

Study made possible through the support of AT&T and Cartoon Network.

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Tween Social Media and Gaming in 2020 https://cyberbullying.org/tween-social-media-and-gaming-2020 https://cyberbullying.org/tween-social-media-and-gaming-2020#respond Wed, 14 Oct 2020 13:16:40 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=30940 This month we have been highlighting results from our recent national survey of tweens, conducted with our friends at Cartoon Network. In this post, I want to focus on what we learned about the devices tweens have and the apps and games they use. Technology access and use by children is of interest to many,…

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This month we have been highlighting results from our recent national survey of tweens, conducted with our friends at Cartoon Network. In this post, I want to focus on what we learned about the devices tweens have and the apps and games they use. Technology access and use by children is of interest to many, with a heavily-contested debate surrounding screen time and concerns about online victimization (including cyberbullying, online predators, impersonation, password breaches, doxing, and more). While we didn’t ask tweens how much time they are spending online, we did ask about the devices they personally have and the apps and games they have used and played in the last year. Results were consistent with our expectations: tweens are actively engaged in a variety of online environments.

Devices

We know that nearly all teenagers have their own electronic devices, but it is clear that many tweens do as well. Over 42% of 9 to 12-year-olds in our 2020 study had their own smartphone, 54% had their own tablet, and 31% had their own laptop. Only 13% of tweens said they did not have any of the devices we asked about. Parents are purchasing these devices for their children to help meet their academic, social, relational, and entertainment needs, and we expect access and use to continue to grow among this population.

In our full report, we break down device ownership by gender, age, and race. I won’t go into all of those details in this brief post, but as a parent of a tween who does not yet have his own smartphone, I was especially interested in the finding that the tween years seem to be the time when most children acquire one. Specifically, only about 20% of 9-year-olds had their own smartphone, compared to over two-thirds (67.6%) of 12-year-olds. With access to a smartphone, comes access to the Internet and a legion of apps and games. Next I’ll discuss what we learned about where they are going online.

Only about 20% of 9-year-olds had their own smartphone, compared to over two-thirds of 12-year-olds.

Social Media Apps and Gaming

For the purposes of our study, “social media” is used in a broad sense to represent the apps and websites that allow users to post content and/or interact with others online. Social media is an imperfect term because the functionality to share and interact varies across each environment, and each tends to be optimized for different purposes. For instance, some social media apps focus on the sharing of pictures and videos, while others help to build communities around content creators and live-streamers. When assessing the online activities of tweens, we also included a few gaming apps that allow for player interaction (Minecraft, Roblox, and Fortnite).

The runaway favorite online space for tween in our study was YouTube, with more than two-thirds (66.9%) saying they have been on that site within the last year. It is worth noting that the standalone kid-friendly version (YouTube Kids) was used by just 26% of tweens, but admittedly is designed for children 8 and under. “Sandbox games” Minecraft and Roblox (where the object is to build your own creations, adventures, and worlds with simple cubic elements) came in as a close second and third in popularity (47.9% and 46.7% respectively). TikTok (29.8%), Snapchat (15.9%), Instagram (15.3%), and Facebook Messenger Kids (15.3%) were also used by tweens. Some apps which have gained prominence in the last few years due to their livestreaming functionality and community building approach are beginning to catch on among tweens (Discord: 8.1%; Twitch: 4.8%). Overall, 94% of students said they used at least one of the apps listed (92% have used one or more of the most popular social media, streaming, and gaming apps – excluding Google Classroom). If we also exclude Facebook Messenger Kids and YouTube Kids, 89% of tweens have used one or more of the remaining social apps listed.

92% of tweens have used one or more of the most popular social media apps or games.

If you want to learn more about app and game popularity by gender, age, and race, check out the full report. The tween years certainly are a time of increased exploration of various online environments.

Conclusion

While the widespread use of various apps and games likely does not come as much of a surprise to parents, it must be remembered that tween participation in most of these environments technically violates the Terms of Service of the platforms they’re on. When it comes to the most popular social media apps in the world, each requires users to be 13 years of age or older (or require a parent to set up the account). We know, however, that kids often lie about their age when signing up, or sign up (or login) with a family member’s (or friend’s) assistance or credentials. These industry-wide age restrictions are a result of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which “prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices in connection with the collection, use, and/or disclosure of personal information from and about children on the Internet.” Since nearly all apps collect at least some information about their users, restrictions within the Act apply. Certain “kid-friendly” apps such as Facebook Messenger Kids and YouTube Kids require parental permission to participate, which is allowable under COPPA, but these apps are generally less popular than their full-function counterparts.

The bottom line is that parents have an obligation to keep up with what their children are doing online – especially in spaces not intended for younger audiences. Have frequent conversations with your kids about where they are going, what they are posting, and who they are interacting with. You might want to consider utilizing a Technology Use Contract to ensure everyone in the family understands their responsibilities when it comes to technology. Parents who don’t fully understand the capability of certain apps their children are using should learn more about them by searching online for more information and by simply asking their kids in a nonjudgmental, noncritical manner. Intentional conversations on a regular basis can go a long way toward educating yourself, encouraging your children to be safe and responsible online, and building the relationship you both will need to navigate this complex stage of their lives.

We would like to thank Victoria J. Rideout and the Cartoon Network Stop Bullying: Speak Up team for their contributions to this project.

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Tween Cyberbullying in the United States https://cyberbullying.org/tween-cyberbullying-in-the-united-states https://cyberbullying.org/tween-cyberbullying-in-the-united-states#respond Wed, 07 Oct 2020 13:11:44 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=30758 We have been exploring how young people use and misuse technology, with a primary focus on cyberbullying, for nearly two decades. In that time, though, we have almost exclusively studied middle and high school students (12- to 17-year-olds) and their caregivers. Earlier this year we were approached by Cartoon Network with questions about tween experiences…

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We have been exploring how young people use and misuse technology, with a primary focus on cyberbullying, for nearly two decades. In that time, though, we have almost exclusively studied middle and high school students (12- to 17-year-olds) and their caregivers. Earlier this year we were approached by Cartoon Network with questions about tween experiences with cyberbullying. We knew we didn’t have any data on tween cyberbullying, and a quick search didn’t turn up any other research on this particular population. So, with support from AT&T, we partnered with Cartoon Network to fill this important gap in knowledge. In June and July of this year we surveyed a nationally-representative sample of 1,034 tweens (9-12-year-olds) to find out more about their experiences with cyberbullying. Below is a brief overview of some of the key findings.

1. One in five tweens has been cyberbullied, has cyberbullied others, or has seen cyberbullying.

Over 20% of tweens have been exposed to it in one way or another. Almost 15% of tweens have seen cyberbullying, and nearly as many have been targeted. Six percent of tweens have been cyberbullied many times, while another 8.5% were cyberbullied once or twice. Few tweens admit to cyberbullying others (3.2%). These numbers – while not overwhelming in magnitude – still indicate that a solid proportion of young kids face cruelty and meanness online when they are simply trying to enjoy the benefits of gameplay, interaction with their friends, and the sharing of random and noteworthy moments of their days on social media.

As far as demographic differences, boys were more likely to have cyberbullied others than girls – but there were no other differences based on gender. Nine-year-olds were less likely to have been cyberbullied (9.5% compared to about 16% for older tweens), or to have witnessed cyberbullying (6.7% compared to about 18% for older tweens). As such, parents and educators should be talking about cyberbullying at a very early age (9 or even earlier). There were no differences in experience with cyberbullying by race.

2. Cyberbullying affects tweens in a variety of ways.

Research has long demonstrated the negative consequences of bullying and cyberbullying victimization. In the current study, close to 94% of tweens who were cyberbullied said it negatively impacted their life in some way. Nearly 70% said it affected their feelings about themselves, about one-third said it affected their friendships, 13% said it affected their physical health, and 6.5% shared it influenced their schoolwork.

Parents, educators, and other youth-serving adults must recognize the gravity of these implications for the future, especially when considering the vulnerable developmental arc of the tween years. It is understandable that cyberbullying undermines a student’s social and academic stability. What is more alarming is the effect that cyberbullying seems to have on tweens’ ego (their identity and sense of self) and their physiological state, particularly because research shows poorer mental and physical health during childhood can compromise personal and professional well-being during adulthood.

3. Tweens use a variety of strategies to stop cyberbullying.

Blocking the person who was behaving badly worked for 60% of the tweens who had been cyberbullied. Not surprisingly, tweens were also likely to turn to parents for help in cyberbullying situations and over half who had been cyberbullied said telling a parent was useful in stopping the behavior. Ignoring the person (42.8%), reporting the incident to the app (29.8%), and simply taking a break from the device (29.6%) also helped in many cases. Relatively few tweens who were targeted said reporting it to the school helped to stop the cyberbullying (11.8%). It is promising to see that a solid proportion of youth are talking to their parent(s) when they are bullied online, but we do wish these numbers were higher.

Relatedly, it is unfortunate to see that the vast majority of tweens are hesitant to report the abusive behavior to the site/app/game, even though their Terms of Service typically prohibit any forms of harassment and bullying, and they each provide features to block, report, or mute aggressors. Also, we wish we would have seen more youth demonstrate positive coping skills like walking away from heated online situations. These findings, though, help point to online safety and well-being strategies that we can teach tweens in schools, homes, and even within apps and games.

4. Tweens are helpers.

Though cyberbullying is occurring among tweens in America, it is encouraging to note that the vast majority have sought to help those being targeted when they see it happen. Previous research has found that younger students are more likely than older students to intervene in school bullying, but that the relevance of age becomes less important when it comes to cyberbullying. The current study shows that about two-thirds of tweens are willing to step in to defend, support, or otherwise assist those who are bullied online when they see it. The importance of helping behaviors need to be reiterated, reinforced, and rewarded as early in life as possible so that such actions become habitual instead of based solely on emotions in the moment.

Conclusion

This first-of-its kind study confirmed what we already suspected: too many tweens are experiencing cyberbullying. Among the 1,034 tweens who responded to our survey, more than one in five (21%) had some exposure to cyberbullying in one of its forms: as a target, aggressor, or witness. Fifteen percent had been cyberbullied while just 3% reported that they had cyberbullied others. These findings are important since no previous study that we are aware of has collected national data on the cyberbullying experiences of tweens. Of note, 94% of tweens who had been cyberbullied said it negatively impacted their life in a variety of ways. It is reassuring, though, to observe that most tweens who had been cyberbullied implemented various strategies to get it stopped. Some of those were technical (blocking or reporting the aggressor) while others were social (telling a parent or reporting it to their school). Moreover, two-thirds of tweens reported that they had tried to help someone else who was being cyberbullied.

We’ll highlight other interesting results from this research throughout the next month on this blog and our social media channels. To see the full report and find other information about the project, click here.

Tween Cyberbullying - 2020

We would like to thank Victoria J. Rideout and the Cartoon Network Stop Bullying: Speak Up team for their contributions to this project.

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Bullying, Cyberbullying, and LGBTQ Students https://cyberbullying.org/bullying-cyberbullying-lgbtq https://cyberbullying.org/bullying-cyberbullying-lgbtq#respond Thu, 01 Oct 2020 03:26:13 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=28250 Bullying that specifically targets youth and young adults based on their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression has been a problem for decades. The increased utilization of technology among youth (and, well, just about everyone) has resulted in bullying behaviors moving online. As a result, cyberbullying perpetrated against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth…

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Bullying that specifically targets youth and young adults based on their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression has been a problem for decades. The increased utilization of technology among youth (and, well, just about everyone) has resulted in bullying behaviors moving online. As a result, cyberbullying perpetrated against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth has emerged. It is clear that more can be done to prevent these incidents of hate perpetrated online. This summary explores what the research says about the connection between bullying/cyberbullying and sexual orientation/identity, and discusses relevant strategies that youth-serving adults can implement.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2020). Bullying, Cyberbullying, and LGBTQ Students. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved [insert date], from https://cyberbullying.org/bullying-cyberbullying-sexual-orientation-lgbtq.pdf

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Cyberbullying Fact Sheet: Identification, Prevention, and Response https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-fact-sheet-identification-prevention-and-response https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-fact-sheet-identification-prevention-and-response#comments Fri, 25 Sep 2020 10:59:23 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=2165 UPDATED for 2020! This detailed guide is a nine-page summary – filled with as much useful information as possible – to equip educators, parents, and other youth-serving adults to spot cyberbullying, respond to it appropriately and meaningfully, and to prevent its future occurrence among those they care for. If you only have time to read…

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UPDATED for 2020! This detailed guide is a nine-page summary – filled with as much useful information as possible – to equip educators, parents, and other youth-serving adults to spot cyberbullying, respond to it appropriately and meaningfully, and to prevent its future occurrence among those they care for. If you only have time to read one fact sheet from the Cyberbullying Research Center to get up-to-speed about the problem and what you can do, read this one.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2020). Cyberbullying fact sheet: Identification, Prevention, and Response. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved [insert date], from https://cyberbullying.org/Cyberbullying-Identification-Prevention-Response-2020.pdf

Download PDF

(NOTE: We have a much older version of this Cyberbullying fact sheet available here, in case you were looking for it or had linked to it from another site: https://cyberbullying.org/Cyberbullying-Identification-Prevention-Response.pdf)

Cyberbullying-Identification-Prevention-Response-2014

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Digital Dating Abuse: A Brief Guide for Educators and Parents https://cyberbullying.org/digital-dating-abuse-2 https://cyberbullying.org/digital-dating-abuse-2#respond Wed, 23 Sep 2020 15:40:09 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=27155 This 8-page research brief provides educators, parents, and other youth serving adults information about the nature and extent of digital dating abuse among adolescents and how to best address it.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines dating abuse as physical, sexual, or psychological/emotional violence that occurs within a dating relationship. In the 21st Century, a new manifestation of dating abuse has emerged, one that exploits digital communications technologies that are omnipresent. “Digital dating abuse” (also known as “electronic dating violence”) can be defined as “a pattern of behaviors that control, pressure, or threaten a dating partner using a cell phone or the Internet.” This 8-page research brief provides educators, parents, and other youth serving adults information about the nature and extent of digital dating abuse among adolescents and how to best address it. The Guide includes results from a national survey of U.S. of middle and high school students about their experiences with digital dating abuse. This research brief is a summary of a longer, more detailed academic paper entitled “Digital Dating Abuse Among a National Sample of U.S. Youth” which appears in the Journal of Interpersonal violence.

Download the Guide

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2020). Digital Dating Abuse: A Brief Guide for Educators and Parents. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved [insert date], from https://cyberbullying.org/digital-dating-abuse.pdf

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Teen Sexting: A Brief Guide for Educators and Parents https://cyberbullying.org/sexting-a-brief-guide-for-educators-and-parents https://cyberbullying.org/sexting-a-brief-guide-for-educators-and-parents#comments Wed, 23 Sep 2020 08:22:21 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=811 This research summary reviews what is currently known about teen sexting. Research from across the United States is discussed, along with practical solutions for parents, educators, and other adults to prevent and respond to teen sexting. Citation information: Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2018). Sexting – A Brief Guide for Educators and Parents. Cyberbullying…

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This research summary reviews what is currently known about teen sexting. Research from across the United States is discussed, along with practical solutions for parents, educators, and other adults to prevent and respond to teen sexting.

Citation information: Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2018). Sexting – A Brief Guide for Educators and Parents. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved (insert date), from https://cyberbullying.org/sexting-research-summary.pdf

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Keywords: teen sexting, prevention, response, explicit images

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Connecting with Students Online: Issues to Consider When Educators “Friend” Students https://cyberbullying.org/connecting-with-students-online https://cyberbullying.org/connecting-with-students-online#respond Sun, 20 Sep 2020 11:47:14 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=3565 This fact sheet provides information for educators and students to keep in mind when connecting via social media. Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. (2020). Connecting with Students Online: Issues to Consider When Educators “Friend” Students. Cyberbullying Research Center. Download PDF

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This fact sheet provides information for educators and students to keep in mind when connecting via social media.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. (2020). Connecting with Students Online: Issues to Consider When Educators “Friend” Students. Cyberbullying Research Center.

Download PDF

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Bullying and Cyberbullying: The Connection to Delinquency https://cyberbullying.org/bullying-cyberbullying-delinquency https://cyberbullying.org/bullying-cyberbullying-delinquency#respond Wed, 16 Sep 2020 16:03:42 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=30329 Sameer and I have long been interested in the connection between cyberbullying and offline behaviors. Nearly fifteen years ago we published a paper which found preliminary evidence that youth who had been cyberbullied were more at risk to engage in school violence and delinquency. We framed this possible relationship from the perspective of General Strain…

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Sameer and I have long been interested in the connection between cyberbullying and offline behaviors. Nearly fifteen years ago we published a paper which found preliminary evidence that youth who had been cyberbullied were more at risk to engage in school violence and delinquency. We framed this possible relationship from the perspective of General Strain Theory, a popular contemporary criminological theory that argues that crime and deviance can be a function of strain (or extreme stress) in one’s life. When one is strained by various life circumstances (e.g., death of a parent or breakup with a significant other) and experience negative emotions (namely anger and frustration) as a result of that strain, that person is at a greater risk to engage in deviance as a coping mechanism to escape the strain. For example, if I am angry about my recent romantic relationship ending, I may be more inclined to seek revenge against my ex by sharing personal information or pictures of her, or be controlling and abusive towards other girls because I’m scared they might also eventually break my heart.

In a new paper that was just published in the academic journal Violence and Victims, we, along with some colleagues, found more evidence that experience with bullying and cyberbullying victimization is related to participation in delinquent behavior. For this study we surveyed a national sample of 2,760 middle and high school students in 2016 about their experiences with bullying at school and bullying online, whether those incidents made them angry or frustrated, and whether they participated in various forms of delinquent behaviors (e.g., theft, assault, drug use).

Nearly 30% of the students in the sample had been bullied at school, while about 19% had been cyberbullied. These numbers are generally in line with our other research over the years. About 18% of the students admitted to engaging in one or more of the eight deviant/delinquent behaviors we asked them about. Finally, about three-quarters of the students who had been bullied at school said it made them angry or frustrated, while about half of the students who had been cyberbullied felt the same way.

Students who were bullied at school were almost three times as likely to engage in delinquency, while those who were cyberbullied were more than three times as likely to have engaged in delinquency.

Results suggest that students who experienced bullying or cyberbullying were more likely to engage in delinquency, as were students who developed negative emotions from those experiences. Specifically, students who were bullied at school were almost three times as likely to engage in delinquency (log odds = 2.82) while those who were cyberbullied were more than three times as likely to have engaged in delinquency (log odds = 3.17). However, bullying victimization seems to matter more than the negative emotions that stem from it, especially when it came to school bullying. Even though students who experienced negative emotions were more likely to engage in delinquency, the strength of the relationship decreased for cyberbullying and disappeared for school bullying. In other words, students were more likely to engage in delinquency when they had been bullied, regardless of whether they developed negative emotions from being bullied.

One important caveat is that this paper relies on data collected at one point in time. So even though there appears to be a relationship between bullying/cyberbullying and delinquency, it is impossible for us to definitively say that being bullied causes someone to engage in delinquency. It is also plausible that the delinquent behaviors occur prior to the bullying (in which case the bullying cannot cause the delinquency). In fact, Sameer and I published another paper over ten years ago which found that youth who experienced stressful life events that resulted in anger or frustration were more likely to participate in bullying or cyberbullying. So we’ve now looked at school bullying and cyberbullying as both causes of strain and effects of strain – and have found support for both pathways.

We’ve now looked at school bullying and cyberbullying as both causes of strain and effects of strain – and have found support for both pathways.

As a final note, I’m particularly proud of this paper. Not because it uses a great sample or especially sophisticated statistical analyses, but because it is the first that I have been a part of where a co-author is a former student. Even better, one of his former students is also a co-author! So there are three generations of academics in this one paper. Mentoring the next generation of scholars is truly one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

You can read the full paper here. If you are unable to access it, just reach out and we’ll send you a copy.

Image: Kylie De Guia (@captured_deguia) – Unsplash

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Social Media and Tech Misuse Scenarios https://cyberbullying.org/social-media-and-tech-misuse-scenarios https://cyberbullying.org/social-media-and-tech-misuse-scenarios#respond Sat, 05 Sep 2020 18:00:51 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=30714 This resources provides scenarios that parents, educators, and other adults can use to discuss issues that may come up when young people are using technology. Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2020). Social Media and Tech Misuse Scenarios. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved [insert date], from https://cyberbullying.org/Social-Media-and-Tech-Misuse-Scenarios.pdf Download the Scenarios

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This resources provides scenarios that parents, educators, and other adults can use to discuss issues that may come up when young people are using technology.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2020). Social Media and Tech Misuse Scenarios. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved [insert date], from https://cyberbullying.org/Social-Media-and-Tech-Misuse-Scenarios.pdf

Download the Scenarios

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TikTok: Pros, Cons, and the Promise of Youth Empowerment https://cyberbullying.org/tiktok-pros-cons-youth-empowerment https://cyberbullying.org/tiktok-pros-cons-youth-empowerment#respond Tue, 01 Sep 2020 12:09:50 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=29866 I trust by now that you’ve at least heard of TikTok, the fledgling short-form video app that has been around since 2016 but has exploded in popularity since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. With at least two billion downloads and at least 800 million active users (and probably way more), its reach seems to…

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I trust by now that you’ve at least heard of TikTok, the fledgling short-form video app that has been around since 2016 but has exploded in popularity since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. With at least two billion downloads and at least 800 million active users (and probably way more), its reach seems to be expanding rapidly with every passing week. This may be in part because the 15-60 second video clips users post align well with our attention spans and desire for small bites of entertaining content, and because its algorithms work perhaps faster than their counterparts in identifying what types of content we are specifically interested in seeing (and, by extension, what we would quickly skip over). Furthermore, it is built around niches occupied by fervent and passionate users who have discovered that TikTok is a fun and engaging way to stay connected with each other about the things they love (e.g., shared interests such as magic, comedy, furries [animal characters with human features], anime, memes, sports, cooking/baking, and music).

TikTok’s popularity may be in part because the 15-60 second video clips users post align well with our attention spans and desire for small bites of entertaining content, and because its algorithms work perhaps faster than their counterparts in identifying what types of content we are specifically interested in seeing.

TikTok as a Point of Contention

However, as with any new app, there is a lot of confusion and even concern about TikTok. It is being discussed fervently in the US political arena (as President Trump seeks to ban it because of its current ownership by a Chinese corporation). In addition, it is a point of focus for K-12 schools – where teachers and students have embraced it in numerous ways but still worry about certain problematic cultural messages or behaviors being amplified on the app -) and families – as parents are wondering about whether it is a safe space for their kids to interact with others.

We absolutely want to equip parents and educators with the knowledge they need to keep students safe on this app. Here are some of the positives and negatives I’ve identified in case they help to round out your own perspective on the app. 

Benefits of TikTok

  • Perhaps because of the interface and the relatable way that individuals are portrayed in any TikTok, users feel very comfortable to be themselves and to share compelling, creative bite-sized videos with others. The app has also been the location where memes originate and go viral, new phrases where challenges are posted and receive participation from all over the world, and a favorite platform of many celebrities.

  • It is arguably easier to edit content in TikTok than in other apps like Snapchat and Instagram. The filters and functionality to modify and improve your video are actually enjoyable to use.

  • There is always something original to explore because it’s a mirror of current social trends, and benefits from new songs being released (and featured) all of the time.

  • It is just really fun. In unique and inviting ways.

Concerns about TikTok

  • Accounts on TikTok, when first created, are set to Public. I realize the corporate benefit of this. I just hope that all users realize this, pause for a moment to reflect on the implications, and then take a second to toggle the setting to Private if they would prefer to control who is able to see their TikToks and leave them comments.

  • Parents tell me that they’re concerned about the fact that many videos feature songs with inappropriate lyrics. Yes, this is jarring when you watch a video and hear some profanity, and I wouldn’t personally want kids exposed to such language. However, I do know that many are exposed to this language at school, among friends, and those songs are readily accessible to them on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, etc. Have a conversation with your kid about your expectations for lyrical content in their TikToks and have consequences in place if they violate your trust.

  • Parents also convey that they see many girls (and even some boys) act in very sexually suggestive ways in the TikToks they post. I’ve seen this too. It does make me uncomfortable. I’ve seen similar content on Instagram, but it’s not as “in your face” as it seems to be on TikTok. My major concern is that I don’t want youth (particularly girls, since they are disproportionately involved) to get caught up in objectifying themselves to get likes, comments, and follows. It’s very hard to understand the implications of this when you’re 13 – it just is amazing that others seem so interested in you, and really seem to care about you. To be sure, this concern is valid across many platforms.

  • TikTok provides the ability to filter out certain content that might be considered “mature” through a setting called “Restricted Mode.” This is available under “Me” (bottom right icon) and then “Digital Wellbeing.” (Parents, you will have to enable a “Family Pairing” setting (which links your child’s account to yours) in order to prevent your kid from changing the security settings you implement). Restriced Mode does a relatively good job at keeping sexual content and violence out of your Home feed, but it is not perfect. I have seen some sexually suggestive dancing by younger girls come through (this may or may not upset your sensibilities, I’m just relaying my experience). And I’ve never seen any porn (nor should I, because it violates their Community Guidelines). I do know that TikTok is continually refining their algorithms to improve their accuracy of detecting mature content.

  • It’s easy to get stuck in a content silo if you are only scrolling through the For You Page.  To combat this, use the Discover button to search for different hashtags and be introduced to different creators.

Please don’t miss this major point: all apps have pros and cons. The concerns I have mentioned above are present on all other major social media apps. They are not inherent or uniquely restricted to TikTok. What is also interesting is that our Center has yet to receive a request for help from a TikTok user specific to cyberbullying, threats, or related issues (and we do get help requests all the time from users on other platforms). Is that because TikTok is super responsive to Reports sent in through the app? I hope so. If so, that’s great.

The concerns I have mentioned above are present on all other major social media apps. They are not inherent or uniquely restricted to TikTok.

When parents ask for my professional opinion on TikTok (or any app), I discuss the benefits and the concerns, show them how it works on my phone, and explain to them why it’s so popular and sticky. And then I tell them to download it, spend a few minutes on the For You (or Home) page, and make sure they follow their teen’s account so they can stay in the know of what is being posted.

Overall, we should refrain from demonizing certain new apps due to a lack of understanding or appreciation of their benefits. Plus, we would do well to remember that social media in and of itself isn’t bad or wrong or evil. While we often hear about and focus the most attention on the bad things that occur on or via social media, we should remember that it is also often being marshalled for positive purposes. Many youth are feeling increasingly empowered because of the platform that social media provides to share what they care deeply about. TikTok is a global community, much like the ones that exist on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Twitch. The users – as a collective – set the tone and therefore dictate the environment in which others can feel free to post and share what matters to them. The more voices out there that promote tolerance, kindness, and mutual respect, the better it will be for everyone.

TikTok as a Platform for Cyberbullying Prevention

As I close, I wanted to focus on something I’m seeing that I love: youth speaking out about cyberbullying and attempting to shift peer perceptions on what is appropriate, and what is not.

Here are a few videos that I found on TikTok across where teens are speaking out (or otherwise conveying) about the need to be respectful in comments, demonstrating resilience, and trying to set a tone of kindness for others. I’ve uploaded them to YouTube for ease of experience across devices.

One observation here is worth exploring: all of the creators of the videos shared above are of the same demographic – young white girls. Why is that? TikTok users span the spectrums of age, gender, race, and religion and is available in 75 languages. Users come from all over the world. Is this demographic disproportionately targeted? Or, do they feel safer and freer than other groups to speak up and speak out? It was very hard for me to surface anti-bullying TikToks by non-white, non-female creators (if I could have, I would have featured them here). You’d think as a dark-skinned male of Indian descent, I would see a more diverse assortment of creators’ content. This said, I feel like TikTok would do well to identify, elevate, and otherwise promote TikToks that contribute to establishing a kind, accepting, respectful environment so that other users of those differing demographics feel supported. Instagram has publicly asserted that they want their platform to be known for kindness, and this shouldn’t be the exception among social media companies. It should be the norm, and TikTok should help lead the way.

Finally, regardless of what happens with TikTok’s ownership situation, it is not going away any time soon. You may have heard that a number of American companies (such as Microsoft, Twitter, and Oracle are interested in purchasing it). Plus, we’ve already seen an increase in TikTok users familiarizing themselves with VPNs to get around any technological bans that Internet Service Providers might be forced to implement (even though I don’t think this is a long-term solution). I’m confident it’s going to continue to grow – and hopefully TikTok will take continued intentional steps to safeguard its userbase and promote healthy, happy interactions. 

Let me know if I can answer any questions you may have!

Image sources:
https://bit.ly/3lcTBAs
https://bit.ly/3liWsru
https://bit.ly/2QnJpXy
https://bit.ly/3aUTOn6
https://bit.ly/3gKBwq3


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Cyberbullying: Top Ten Tips for Health Care Providers https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-tips-health-care-providers https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-tips-health-care-providers#respond Sat, 22 Aug 2020 18:07:44 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=29846 This resource provides tips for health care professionals (pediatricians, school nurses, etc.) to help them identify and care for students who may have experienced cyberbullying.

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(For a formatted .pdf version of this article for distribution, click on the image above [or click here]).

Health care providers (pediatricians, primary care physicians, school nurses, etc.) may be in a unique position to identify and help with cyberbullying among youth. As such, they should be prepared to help children and families with these problems when confronted with evidence of them. Here are some tips to help in this endeavor.

1. REMEMBER THE IMPORTANCE OF EARLY DETECTION. Early detection is vital to reversing the negative consequences for targets of bullying as well as countering the aggressive behavioral tendencies of those who may bully others. As soon as children are placed in environments where peer harassment can occur on a regular basis, you should ask them about how they are treated – and how they treat others. Continue to track over time their experiences with peers, and how they are reacting, adjusting, and growing in their relational skills. Often, clues early on can help prompt helpful conversations and interventions before serious and lasting implications can result.

2. KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS OF BULLYING
Bullying and cyberbullying have been linked to various emotional, psychological, and physiological consequences, including sleep problems, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, headaches, and self-harming thoughts and behaviors. Know the warning signs associated with bullying offending and bullying victimization, and ask the parent(s) if their child has exhibited any of them. The signs may very well be indicative of bullying at school or online, since 75% of 12-17 year-olds say that they’ve been bullied and approximately 30% say they have been cyberbullied at least once in their lifetime based on our most recent data.

3. UTILIZE WELLNESS EXAMS AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO ASK SCREENING QUESTIONS FOR BULLYING VICTIMIZATION AND BEHAVIORS
One of the best ways to detect bullying early is to ask screening questions. Questions can include: I’d like to hear about how school is going. How many good friends do you have in school? Do you ever feel afraid to go to school? Are you ever afraid in your neighborhood? Do other kids ever give you a hard time or bully you at school, in your neighborhood, or online? Who bullies you? When and where does it happen? What do they say or do? Screening questions should also identify whether youth have a support system that will help them resolve the issue. Who is a trusted adult or ally in your school or life who can help you if you’re targeted? Lastly, health care providers should frame questions based on various levels of involvement in bullying or cyberbullying: the aggressor, target, and the witness/bystander.

4. FRAME THE ISSUE AS A “HEALTH” CONCERN AND NOT A “SOCIAL” CONCERN
Health care providers should convey to parents that bullying and cyberbullying are not just “social concerns” who may then think the issues will work themselves out over time. Instead, be clear about the health implications of bullying and cyberbullying on their child, and encourage a responsibility in them to be calmly but actively involved in their online activities (as well as their offline activities).

5. TAKE TIME TO TRAIN YOURSELF AND YOUR STAFF
Consider having your institution host workshops for your community of patients that aim to dispel misconceptions about bullying, discuss effective anti-bullying policies and practices in homes and schools, and expand on how parents, siblings, and extended families can be part of the solution.

6. CONSULT WITH OTHER STAKEHOLDERS
Ensure that you have relationships with point people in the community who can provide various services, depending on your patient’s situation. You should have at least one contact in law enforcement, multiple contacts in adolescent mental health (e.g., one who specializes in trauma, cognitive behavior therapy, suicide prevention and crisis management, etc.), and at the school district level (in case formal actions need to be taken to keep your patient safe at school). You may even choose to form a multidisciplinary, community-based coalition to improve coordination in the assessment, intake, and referral of children who are bullied (or who bully others) for treatment, counseling, and other community services.

7. BE A VOICE FOR THE CHILDREN WHO ARE TARGETED
By being a voice for those youth who disclose to you that they are being bullied, you are serving as their advocate and defender. Perhaps their situation has been trivialized or dismissed by other adults, and they’ve confided in you because of your position and status in the community, or your bedside manner. For example, if you discover that a child is a target of bullying, explain to the parents how bullying is a health problem, and encourage them to listen, believe, and support their child. Many times, children who have been bullied can move more readily towards healing simply by knowing their voice is heard, their experience is validated, and well-meaning adults want to help them recover and then thrive.

8. ENCOURAGE OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW IN RESILIENCE
Targets of bullying often feel as if they are the problem, and experience self-blame, shame, and judgment. Encourage parents to identify social situations where their son or daughter can feel supported and find success. Research has shown that extracurricular activities where youth can grow in their social skills (e.g., conflict resolution, emotional self-regulation, the nuances of banter) and can experience “wins” (earning an award, helping a team to victory, discovering a talent or ability they didn’t know they had) help produce resilience and self-confidence. Those traits, then, can buffer against the harms that peer harassment or other adolescent struggles typically cause.

9. HELP THE STUDENTS WHO BULLY OTHERS
If a patient (or their parent) reveals that they have bullied others, probe to determine the root cause(s) of their antisocial behavior. Reiterate that what they are doing is wrong but show disapproval towards the actions, rather than the individual. In addition, talk to the parents and/or refer the child to a mental health counselor if you believe that may help resolve the underlying issue.

10. BE A RELIABLE SOURCE OF INFORMATION FOR THE COMMUNITY
Parents, children, school administrators, teachers, and other members of the community look to health care providers as respected and knowledgeable sources of information. Distribute relevant materials with research-based information on bullying identification, prevention, and response to parents who visit your office with their children. Take advantage of the free PDF resources we share on our website, which include tip sheets with clear, actionable strategies for families and youth themselves. Having these resources posted visibly in your office or waiting room will allow parents and children to learn more about bullying and cyberbullying, and strategies to confront them, even without formally disclosing experiences with you.

Citation information: Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2020). Cyberbullying: Top Ten Tips for Teens. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved (insert date), from https://cyberbullying.org/Cyberbullying-Top-Ten-Tips-Health-Care-Providers.pdf.

Keywords: tips, teach, educate, health care providers, pediatricians

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Digital Dating Abuse: Top Ten Tips for Teens https://cyberbullying.org/digital-dating-abuse-top-ten-tips-for-teens https://cyberbullying.org/digital-dating-abuse-top-ten-tips-for-teens#respond Sat, 22 Aug 2020 17:39:14 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=29840 “Digital dating abuse” involves using technology to repetitively harass a romantic partner with the intent to control, coerce, intimidate, annoy or threaten them. Given that youth in relationships today are constantly in touch with each other via texting, social media, and video chat, more opportunities for digital dating abuse can arise. Below are ten tips to help keep teens safe online when it comes to romantic relationships.

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(For a formatted .pdf version of this article for distribution, click on the image above [or click here]).

“Digital dating abuse” involves using technology to repetitively harass a romantic partner with the intent to control, coerce, intimidate, annoy or threaten them. Given that youth in relationships today are constantly in touch with each other via texting, social media, and video chat, more opportunities for digital dating abuse can arise. Below are ten tips to help keep teens safe online when it comes to romantic relationships.

1. CONSIDER THE CONTEXT OF YOUR TEXTS. Teens sometimes report feeling more confident communicating via text instead of face-to-face, especially when it comes to personal or sensitive topics – and often in romantic situations. However, always remember that your love interest may misinterpret the content of your text or make assumptions about your meaning because they can’t see your facial expression or body language, or pick up on the tone or inflection in your voice. If it’s a difficult conversation, it is always best to have it in person. Don’t risk misunderstandings. And ask for clarification if your love interest texts you something that causes any concern or question.

2. BE MINDFUL THAT YOUR LOCATION MAY BE SHARED THROUGH POSTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS, OR EVEN VIA YOUR FAVORITE TEXTING/MESSAGING APP. Some teens report using social media as a way to track or “stalk” one another. You can turn off location sharing in each social media app you use, and automatically strip every photo or video of any “metadata” by adjusting your Messaging settings. If you feel that your significant other is demanding to know your whereabouts, doesn’t allow you to go certain places, or implies that you “owe” them information about what you are doing or why, those are signs of an unhealthy, abusive relationship. In healthy relationships, people feel free and comfortable to live their life without constantly reporting back to their partner.

3. DO NOT BE PRESSURED TO SHARE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PASSWORDS. Studies show that when teens who have shared social media passwords break up, there is a likelihood for privacy invasions, impersonation, posting inappropriate comments, and even getting locked out and having to start over with a new account. If you have given your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend your password (intentionally or unintentionally), change it immediately. This includes the lock code on your phone.

4. BEWARE OF GUILT-TRIPPING AND PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVENESS. If your partner is making you feel guilty about not handing over your passcode, not giving them sexual photos or any other related matter, then they lack respect for your privacy and individuality. If they say or do things that are hurtful or backhanded just to get you to respond in a certain way, recognize that they are trying to control you. Both of these are signs of an abusive relationship. In a healthy relationship, your partner will never try to shame or pressure you into doing something you are not completely comfortable with.

5. DECIDE YOUR COMFORT LEVEL WITH BLOCKING, MUTING, UNFRIENDING, AND UNFOLLOWING EX-BOYFRIENDS OR EX-GIRLFRIENDS. Do you really want to keep giving them access to all of your posts and content? Will knowing that they see what you share affect your actions? Do you always want to be thinking about how they might interpret the fact that you double-tapped on a new guy’s picture, or accepted a new girl’s follow request? That seems like a lot of unnecessary stress and pressure, and a lot less freedom than you should have. If a relationship ends, or if things go sideways with someone and you stop “talking,” you may be better off cutting them off to avoid further drama.

6. DETERMINE HOW OFTEN TO STAY IN TOUCH VIA TEXT OR OVER THE PHONE. In a healthy relationship, your partner will be considerate of your feelings and the contact level will be mutual, whereas in an unhealthy relationship, your partner may be more demanding and neglect your feelings or comfort level in this area. In a healthy relationship, both people care equally about the other’s comfort level and emotions. There should be mutual agreement about how often you communicate. Be wary of repetitive insistent messages and/or calls demanding a response. Reacting or responding to this type of behavior in an obligatory manner may create an environment that invites more of it.

7. HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS HAVE BOUNDARIES. Just because you might be in a relationship with someone, it doesn’t give them the right to go through your phone or know what you are doing every minute of the day. Going through your partner’s phone or social media without their permission is unhealthy, controlling, and abusive behavior. In a healthy relationship, you and your partner will mutually trust one another and respect personal boundaries. If your partner goes beyond the boundaries you feel comfortable with, you must communicate that to them and see if they are willing to reestablish your trust.

8. IF SOMEONE ASKS YOU FOR NUDES OR SEXUAL PHOTOS OR VIDEOS OF YOURSELF, DON’T FEEL OBLIGATED TO SHARE THEM. Even if you trust your partner or know that they will delete the pictures immediately, we know of numerous cases where the content gets out beyond its intended audience. Sharing content like this also can create an unhealthy power imbalance in your relationship. If your love interest has images of you, they may share the images with their friends just to gain popularity or “cool points.” Once someone has explicit photos or videos of you, they can use them as leverage or blackmail to control you and get you to do things you would never do. Also remember that pictures and videos you post – but do not specifically share – can still be saved and sent around without your knowledge.

9. BE MINDFUL TOWARDS YOUR PARTNER WHEN YOU ARE TOGETHER. Being in a relationship means being considerate about your significant other’s feelings. Many couples complain that their partner spends too much time on their phones, laptop, or gaming console while they spend time together. Even when couples are on dates, much of that time may be spent scrolling through social media feeds, texting others, etc. Some teens in relationships have reported feeling jealous or not important enough to their love interest because of the latter’s inability to stay off their devices when together.

10. BE CAREFUL NOT TO OVERSHARE. Since a major method of communication in teen dating relationships is through messaging and social media, it becomes easy to engage in candid self-disclosure and personal sharing of really private thoughts. Of course, this is fine in a long-term relationship where trust has been established over many months, but it can lead to issues if done prematurely. For example, if you are not positive that you can fully trust them, something incredibly intimate and private that you share with them may be shared with others. You may also get caught up in unhealthy emotions without balance or long-term perspective that time provides, which often leads to unhealthy decisions with your partner. Take your time to really get to know the other person, and don’t rush intimacy just because it feels good to unload yourself and share everything about yourself as soon as possible. It’s just not wise.

Citation information: Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. W. (2020). Digital Dating Abuse: Top Ten Tips for Teens. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved (insert date), from https://cyberbullying.org/digital-dating-abuse-top-ten-tips-for-teens.

Keywords: tips, teens, dating abuse, prevention, activities, teach, educate

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Cyberbullying Fact Sheet: How to Preserve Cyberbullying Evidence Through Screenshots https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-fact-sheet-how-to-preserve-cyberbullying-evidence-through-screenshots https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-fact-sheet-how-to-preserve-cyberbullying-evidence-through-screenshots#respond Sat, 22 Aug 2020 07:47:00 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=2380 This Fact Sheet provides instructions on how to create an image of what you see on any screen (on any device – your laptop, tablet, gaming console, Kindle, phone, iWatch, etc.) so that evidence of cyberbullying (or any other problematic behavior) can be saved and used for an investigation at school, or to send to…

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This Fact Sheet provides instructions on how to create an image of what you see on any screen (on any device – your laptop, tablet, gaming console, Kindle, phone, iWatch, etc.) so that evidence of cyberbullying (or any other problematic behavior) can be saved and used for an investigation at school, or to send to a social media or gaming company to get an account taken down, or to give to the police.

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J. (2020). Cyberbullying fact sheet: How to preserve cyberbullying evidence through screenshots. Cyberbullying Research Center. Retrieved [insert date], from https://cyberbullying.org/making-cyberbullying-screenshots.pdf

Download PDF

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Cyberbullying Crossword Puzzle: Talking to Youth about Internet Harassment https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-crossword-puzzle-talking-to-youth-about-internet-harassment https://cyberbullying.org/cyberbullying-crossword-puzzle-talking-to-youth-about-internet-harassment#respond Sat, 22 Aug 2020 07:02:00 +0000 http://cyberbullying.org/?p=2297 A crossword puzzle to be distributed to youth to promote discussion about cyberbullying. Use it in the classroom, an after-school program, or even at home as a fun way to connect with kids about these issues, and how they can stay safe to enjoy all that the Internet, social media, and online gaming have to…

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A crossword puzzle to be distributed to youth to promote discussion about cyberbullying. Use it in the classroom, an after-school program, or even at home as a fun way to connect with kids about these issues, and how they can stay safe to enjoy all that the Internet, social media, and online gaming have to offer!

Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J.W. (2020). Cyberbullying crossword puzzle: Talking to youth about Internet harassment. Cyberbullying Research Center.

Download PDF

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