Technology takes bullying into cyberspace

By Kerry Coffey

Traditional school bullying has always been a concern. Now, technology has created “cyber bullying” through email, instant messaging, chat rooms, websites and text messaging. Clemson researchers have conducted the first national study to examine the effects of cyber bullying on middle school students. The study by Susan Limber, associate director of the Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life, and Robin Kowalski, a Clemson psychology professor, was featured in the August 1, 2005 issue of TIME magazine.
   
They found that cyber bullying has become a widespread phenomenon. Of 3,700 middle school students surveyed, 18% had experienced cyber bullying in the previous two months; the rate was 21% among eighth-graders. Girls were more likely than boys to be both instigators and victims of cyber bullying. This form may be more harmful than traditional bullying. It can be more frightening for the victim when they don’t know who their bully is and the bully never sees the reaction of the victim.   

“Victims should not respond to the message of cyber bullies,” Limber advised. “They should print and save the messages, show an adult and block incoming messages from the bullies. Parents should take an active role in their child’s online time and know how their child is using the Internet.”
   

For more information: Clemson Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life, 864-656-6271 www.clemson.edu/ifnl/ or U.S. Department of Health and Human Services www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/.