Siena College Research Institute, AT&T, Tyler Clementi Foundation Study Cyberbullying
Majority of both teens and parents have witnessed cyberbullying and say it is serious problem
As middle and high school students spend more time online, a survey of Western New York area teenagers and parents finds cyberbullying is a prevalent issue that touches a majority of area children. Twenty-six percent of teens surveyed across upstate New York have been cyberbullied according to a study released on Friday by Siena College Research Institute, AT&T and the Tyler Clementi Foundation.
"In Western New York, one of every eight parents says that their child has been bullied online, compared to one of every six parents across upstate," said Dr. Don Levy, SRI's director. "Virtually all parents and nearly 90 percent of teens both across upstate and locally agree that cyberbullying is a serious problem that needs to be addressed before it gets worse."
In Western New York, 19 percent of teens have been cyberbullied.
Fifty-five percent of teens and over half of parents in Western New York have witnessed cyberbullying, including insulting or threatening comments posted online, pictures meant to embarrass, revealing videos shared online, and posted rumors or allegations about sexual activity. Nearly one-quarter of local teens say their friends have been cyberbullied and 39 percent know other teens who have suffered online bullying. Over a fifth of Western New York teens and 12 percent of local parents witness some form of cyberbullying at least a few times a month or more.
Online activities are a major part of Western New York teens' everyday lives. Ninety-one percent of teens spend an hour or more a day with online videos or games and 79 percent are online at least an hour a day socializing with their friends. Eighty-two percent of area parents say their child has his own smartphone. Nearly all parents say, and teens agree, parents have talked with their child about ethical online behavior, including bullying, and 97 percent of parents say they have taught their children not to give out personal information online. But nearly a third of local teens have shared their name and gender with someone they met only online, and 5 percent have agreed to meet up with someone they met on the internet.
Forty percent of Western New York parents have rules about technology that they monitor and enforce, while 47 percent have rules, but admit they do not strictly enforce them. In fact, 13 percent of parents allow their children to make their own decisions. Only 11 percent of local teens say their parents strictly monitor their online activities while 45 percent say that, while they have rules, those rules aren't strictly enforced. Nearly one-third of teens say their parents either aren't very involved or simply have no idea what they are doing.
"Only, but perhaps only isn't the right word, 5 percent of area teens say that they have been a cyberbully, and 4 percent of parents acknowledge that their children have bullied others online," Levy said. "But more, 11 percent say that their friends have bullied others, and over a quarter know other teens that have practiced cyberbullying."
While almost a third of Western New York teens say they laugh it off when someone posts something negative about them, 9 percent of all area teens and 13 percent of girls have cried because of something posted online about them or someone close to them. Of those that have been bullied, most - in fact, 41 percent - told their friends, 48 percent spoke to their parents, and a third confronted the bully. But only 20 percent told school officials.
Teens that have cyberbullied in Western New York say they did so because they wanted to get back at someone, were angry at someone or about something, or did so because they thought it was funny. In addition to those who admit to having cyberbullied, 12 percent of all teens say they posted something online that they regret, 6 percent have posted something that ended up hurting someone, and 2 percent have posted something they are not proud of that is still available online.
Asked why cyberbullies target others, large percentages of Western New York teens cite many reasons: physical appearance (39 percent), social awkwardness (27 percent), being thought of as gay (28 percent), the clothes they wear (25 percent), being un-athletic (22 percent), having a disability (25 percent) or being sexually active (14 percent).
"Only 10 percent of those that witness cyberbullying say that they ignore it, in part because they are afraid they will be the next victim," Levy said. "Over a third reach out to the victim; 30 percent try to do something about it; and 12 percent report it. Addressing this serious problem will require the efforts of not only teens and their parents, but also school officials and concerned citizens."
"This first-hand account of what teens are experiencing online is a powerful wakeup call to the pervasiveness of cyberbullying and its potential damaging effects," said Marissa Shorenstein, New York state president of AT&T. "The results show that awareness of cyberbullying is high in Western New York, and more education is needed to help teens make better online choices. By better understanding the extent of the issue, AT&T and the Tyler Clementi Foundation hope to help teens and parents more safely navigate a connected world."
To help that navigation, AT&T created Digital You last year, a comprehensive public education resource offering tools, tips, apps, guidance and community education events for people of all ages and levels of online experience. It provides education about digital dilemmas and using the internet to a positive and safe outcome.
"These stats speak to the staggering problem of cyberbullying," said Jane Clementi, founder and board member of the Tyler Clementi Foundation. "It's outrageous and simply unacceptable to allow this to continue. Aggressive behaviors in the electronic world can cause great pain and destruction to one's spirit. We must instill in our youth the knowledge that technology is only as good as the people who use it. It can be a wonderful and useful tool, or a weapon of great harm and destruction, as in the case of many young people today, including my son, Tyler."
Working with the Tyler Clementi Foundation, AT&T has made addressing the rise of cyberbullying a priority and will be launching a national program in 2017 for high school students across the county featuring award-winning short films and documentaries produced by high school students from across the country for AT&T's Cyberbullying Film Invitational. These films and documentaries are based on the students' own unique and personal experiences. The program was previewed ahead of the national launch at events in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo to mark National Anti-Bullying Week in collaboration with SRI and the Tyler Clementi Foundation.
The Siena College Research Institute conducted 1,255 online interviews of students in grades 6-12 from across upstate New York whose parents had provided explicit consent for their participation. SRI also conducted 1,048 online interviews with parents of students from the participating schools across upstate New York. Interviews were conducted from Sept. 26 through Oct. 23.