Larry Magid separates cyberbullying fact from fiction with help from Justin Patchin, associate professor of criminal justice and co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center.
A great deal has been said and written about cyberbullying, but not all of it is true. As Cyberbullying Research Center co-director Justin Patchin said in an interview recently, it's "a concern that we need to take very seriously," but "it's certainly not an epidemic."
Cyberbullying, said Patchin, is "bullying behaviors carried out using or facilitated by technology," which includes "a lot of the same kind of things we see at school and in neighborhoods, such as harassment or disrespecting or rumors or gossip that are now being carried out online." (Scroll down to listen to podcast.)
Although there are a lot of similarities, there are some special characteristics such as "perceived anonymity, limitless vulnerability, the fact that the target can be anywhere at any time and be susceptible to attacks from the bully," he said. Also, parents sometimes have a tougher time monitoring behaviors good or bad so "technology creates certain challenges for adults who are trying to keep up with relationship problems among adolescents." For more on similarities and differences, see my post "Time to take the 'cyber' out of cyberbullying."
Patchin, who has been studying cyberbullying for nearly 10 years, said that "in general, across the board we estimate that about one in five teens has experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lifetime." When asked about certain behaviors that correlate with cyberbullying, he said that "we see that about 10 percent of teens have experienced one or more of those, two or more times in the past 30 days." He added, "we still see more traditional schoolyard bullying today than cyberbullying." Patchin said that he is "not aware of any longitudinal data that has demonstrated an increase in the behaviors," though he added that "teens are slightly more likely to tell adults about their experience with cyberbullying" since they started doing their research. Seven or eight years ago about 15 percent of kids would tell an adult and now it's "maybe 25 to 30 percent." A 2010 study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that physical bullying went down from 22 percent to 15 percent between 2003 and 2008.
ConnectSafely.org, where I serve as co-director, has tips to help stop cyberbullying, including advice that Patchin also offers, to "reach out for help" from trusted adults and, when possible, by "talking with a friend."
CBS News program "48 Hours Mystery" will air a special on bullying Friday at 8 p.m. Pacific/7 p.m. Central. Here's a preview and here are resources for students and parents.
Click here for a transcript of the Justin Patchin interview plus links to my one-minute CBS News/CNET Tech Talk segments on cyberbullying.