In 2008, the University of Toronto conducted a survey of school children in grades 6, 7, 10 and 11, to study the prevalence of cyber bullying. In the survey, they asked children if they had either been the victim of bullying or participated in bullying, while using the Internet.
The results are startling, and include these findings:
- In the past three months, 21% of students report having been bullied online – sometimes more than once.
- In the past three months, 35% of students have bullied other kids online – sometimes more than once.
- In the past three months, 28% of students watched someone being bullied online.
The raw numbers are even more revealing: in a surveyed population of about 2100 students who participated in the survey, the students reported over 9000 individual incidents of bullying within a three month period – indicents in which they were the direct victim, the bully, or a witness.
What’s of interest to me, as well, is how parents of these same students viewed Internet bullying. Fully 96% reported that they actively discussed Internet safety with their children. 84% reported feeling that their child follows their rules concerning the Internet. 66% felt that they could protect their child from what is on the Internet.
Yet, 21% of students were bullied – and 35% have initiated the bullying.
How was bullying defined in the survey? Students were asked to respond in these categories:
- Was called names/made to feel bad
- Had rumors spread about them
- Had someone pretend to be them online
- Was threatened
- Was sent unwelcome sexual words/photos
- Was asked to do something sexual
- Had someone send their private pictures to others
Something is out of whack here. I would suggest, that parents likely feel a lot more in control and aware of what their child is experiencing online than the reality of what their child is actually experiencing.
What You Can Do: Be More Web Aware
A helpful resource site which includes saftey tips by age for children, is at the web site bewebaware. If you need a refresher on guidelines to establish with your child, check it out. Safety tips include:
- Keep your computer in a public place in the home
- Establish a social media contract with your child – and discuss it
- Ask about your child’s online experiences often – including incidents of bullying
- Remember that instant messaging is the number one online media through which children experience bullying – followed by email, gaming sites, and social networking
- All types of kids can participate in bullying in the cyber world – not just the stereotypical kids who perpetrate it in the physical world