Bullies take to texting

By Shayna Brouker • Published: February 7th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Preteens face scores of stumbling blocks these days as they navigate school, crushes and good old-fashioned self-consciousness. And then there’s bullying. But gone are the days of idle gossip and getting slammed into lockers; bullying has become a beast in recent years as the Internet gives gossip fuel to spread even faster. Traditional teasing has transformed to merciless mockery on websites and social media, and now it’s taken on texting.

A study that was part of a project called “Growing Up with Media” found that kids are more likely now to be harassed through text messages. The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, surveyed more than fifteen-hundred young people aged 10 to 15 and asked them questions about how often they visited violent sites depicting death, war or terrorism. The kids were also asked if they had been bullied online or through texts. The results revealed no increase in exposure to violent material, bullying or unwanted sexual encounters on the Internet, but there was a boost in texting-related bullying or harassment.

The results run parallel to the project’s findings that rates of rates of text messaging among adolescents increased 13 percent from 2008 to 2009, while Internet use remained steady at 93 percent from 2006 to 2008.

One in four who reported being bullied said they were “strongly and negatively” affected by the experience. So what can parents do to keep their kids from being bullied in the first place — or becoming bullies themselves?

For a start, lead by example and teach them compassion and respect for others. Demonstrate how to effectively resolve relationship problems with good communication skills. And while there’s no way to supervise texting … short of reading them yourself … you can at least monitor Internet use. Blocking bullying starts at home.