This month in the Youth File I’d like to share an important study MTV/Associated Press recently released (Sept. 27, 2011) as part of MTV’s A Thin Line campaign. The mission is clear: “to empower youth to take action and stop the spread of online abuse.” They surveyed 1,355 American youth between the ages of 14 and 24 about harassment on the Internet and on mobile devices. Things like online discrimination, mean behaviour and fake gossip were typical abuses young people are exposed to. This study certainly confirms that cyberbullying is still an on-going trend, but also shows us more are becoming aware of the problem and developing strategies to combat online abuse and say something to a friend, parent or teacher to stop it.
Half of the respondents revealed they have been the targets of discrimination, mean behaviour and fake gossip in the digital world, one quarter of the group surveyed in the past six months. Which includes, writing messages online that are untrue (26 percent), mean messages (24 percent) and even forwarding private messages not intended to go public (20 percent). Three-quarters say digital abuse is a serious problem for people their age. And the most discriminated groups are overweight (54 percent), LGB (51 percent), African-American (45 percent), women (44 percent) and immigrants (35 percent). One disturbing trend is those who have been engaged in digital dating abuse were more likely than others to say they have considered dropping out of school (11 percent vs 5 percent).
The study pointed to several effective strategies for protection from digital abuse including: changing passwords (80 percent); changing email address, screen name or cell number (67 percent); and deleting their social-network profile (59 percent).