Nearly One Third of Online Teens Harassed

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A new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that nearly one third (32 percent) of U.S. online teens say they have been the target of annoying or menacing online harassment, including threatening messages, having email or messages distributed without their permission, having rumors spread about them online, or having embarrassing pictures posted online. Who are the most common targets of so-called cyber-bullying? Girls and users of social networking sites.

The study finds that some forms of online harassment experienced by U.S. teens are merely annoying, or essentially benign, amounting to no more than the usual ribbing teenagers give each other in everyday circumstances—and the majority of teens (67 percent) said most bullying and harassment happens offline, rather than via the Internet. Nonetheless, the Pew survey of 935 teenagers showed some distinct trends. For instance, older girls (ages 15 to 17) were more likely to have experienced cyber-bullying than boys or younger girls, with 41 percent of older teenage girls reporting incidents of cyber-bullying, compared to just 29 percent of boys the same age. Similarly, the “online rumor mill” was more likely to target girls than boys, with 16 percent of girls say they’ve been the target of an online rumor, compared to just 9 percent of board. Girls also reported greater incidents of having private communications forwarded to someone else, someone posting an embarrassing picture without permission, or receiving a threatening email message, IM, or text message.

Use of social networking services like MySpace and Facebook was also found to be significant in U.S. teens’ experience of cyber-bullying, with 16 percent of social networking users reporting being the target of online rumors or having received threatening messages, compared to just 8 percent of online teens who don’t use social networking services. Overall, 39 percent of social networking teens reported experiencing incidents of cyber-bullying, compared to 23 percent of other online teens.

The Pew survey was conducted between October 23 and November 19, 2006.

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