While the Internet, cell phones and computers can be a source of effective learning and communication for children, technology has also become a tool for harassing fellow students, according to the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which today released a series of tips for parents and teachers to prevent electronic aggression.
The CDC defines the problem as: “Any type of harassment or bullying (teasing, telling lies, making fun of someone, making rude or mean comments, spreading rumors, or making threatening or aggressive comments) that occurs through e-mail, a chat room, instant messaging, a Web site (including blogs) or text messaging.”
According to the government, 9 percent to 35 percent of young people say they have been victims of electronic aggression. Studies suggest that electronic aggression peaks around the end of middle school and the beginning of high school, according to the CDC’s brief for parents.
Of course, the discussion brings to mind the case of Megan Meier, the 13-year-old girl who hanged herself after being bullied on MySpace by Lori Drew, her 48-year-old neighbor in the suburbs of St. Louis. Ms. Drew told police she had pretended to be a teenage boy who had a crush on Megan. On the day she committed suicide, Ms. Drew reportedly sent a message saying, “the world would be a better place without you.”
Despite such high-profile instances of cyberbullying, the CDC says “face-to-face verbal and physical aggression are still far more common than electronic aggression.”