Teen Victimization in the Digital Age
Parry Aftab, Laurel Broten  -  2014/2/28
http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum
 
 
There are so many different applications and sites that teens use today. What resources are available to parents and adults that work with children to help them stay ahead of the curve?
 
1.  Aubrey
 We offer our community clients copies of the FBI's Smart Cards to help secure privacy. Knowing hoe to reduce or manage a teen's digital footprint can go a long way to reducing opportunity for victimization. These free Smart Cards are available on the internet. The cards cover facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
 
2.  Parry Aftab
 Never an easy question. More sites and apps and networks launch every day than we, as parents, have time to review. So, start with your children. Where are they going online? What are their interests? Where are their friends going online? Asking simple questions like this will give you an early warning system. Then ask your kids to brief you on what the site/app/network does (they will often have a different view than the developers :-)) Ask them how to stay safe there. Ask about privacy settings and report abuse functions. We hope our WiredMoms will help us rate these new offerings and give other moms (and dads) some coaching.
 
 
Are there any statistics that indicate suicides have increased among teenagers due to cyberbullying or abuse?
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 As I mentioned, at most 40 suicides have been committed in N America connected in anyway to cyberbullying, to my knowledge. 40 does not a statistical trend make. But the US NIH issued a study showing that depression has increased and is much higher for digital abuse than offline bullying. I posted this at parryaftab.blogspot.com over the last few weeks. The conversation has to shift from cyberbullying kills to cyberbullying hurts.
 
 
It seems as though bullying has increased as we move further into the digital age. Is it because it's being reported more or are there are other factors that are facilitating an increase in bullying?
 
1.  Laurel Broten
 The significant time our young people spend interacting online is certainly a part of increased cyber-bullying. Kids now have access to digital technology 24/7 and it is still unfortunately a world without a rule making presence but thanks to experts like Parry and so many others - we are starting to have a lot of people who are standing up online to stop bullying.
 
2.  Parry Aftab
 Cyberbullying is an impulsive action, most of the time. and digital technologies are designed to take advantage of impulsiveness. expect it to only increase as opportunities increase. we hope that the older teens who know better can prep the tweens to help curtail this. In the end bystanders hold the secret to stopping cyberbullying. Our dont' stand by stand up! campaign has been very effective. Expect to see more of this over the next year.
 
 
what changes, if any, have you seen in school policies associated with bullying, use of technology, etc., as we move further into the digital age? what would your recommendations be?
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 I recommend that all communities do a cyberbullying action plan, after conducting a needs analysis. This would provide a 360 holistic approach to cyberwellness, governmental services and needs, school climate and risk management, community orgs, law enforcement, families, students themselves, victims rights and assistance groups, media, the digital industry, librarians, social workers, counselors, medical practitioners, etc. This will help identify the needs/obligations of each, without them stepping over each other. We need to approach this from our own perspectives and blend those together. Laurel recently worked with us to help create the stop cyberbullying community action plan for Prince Edward Island, in Canada.
 
2.  Laurel Broten
 In Ontario principals have been given specific responsibilities with respect to bullying and cyber-bullying. Best practice for schools and school boards would be to have policies in place on progressive discipline, bullying prevention and intervention, and on equity and inclusive education. To consider tougher consequences for students who bully others. This can include suspending and considering expulsion. We put in place the following test: if the student has already been suspended for bullying and the student's presence in the school creates an unacceptable risk to the safety of others, or the bullying was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate.
 
3.  Parry Aftab
 Good question...do we have another hour? :-) The most important recommendation is to have a policy in the first place. so many don't. In planning your policy you will discover what is needed. Is it a Bring your own device school? an unwired school, with 1 computer in the library running Windows 95? Get students involved in the planning, parents too and leaders in your community. It should be holistic, flexible and always updated. Don't just lecture, empower. we have many examples in our stopcyberbullying toolkit. you can request it for free at stopcyberbullying.org. It has $1.5 million in resources, all free.
 
 
What are your suggestions to engaging and inspiring youth toward creating a positive culture for other youth?
 
1.  Laurel Broten
 Thanks Parry - Thanks Joe We also recognize that we need to go back to some of the basics in our classrooms and in our schools teaching empathy, respect and compassion. There are some great programs such as Roots of Empathy, the 4th R - Relationships that might be of interest to you. The other important thing I believe is that students must be empowered to take action and not to be bystanders. Boards and schools can allow students to form groups at their school to raise awareness and understanding of all students on topics such as: o anti-racism; o people with disabilities; o gender equity; o sexual orientation and gender identity. Students may form other types of groups based on the needs of their school.
 
2.  Laurel Broten
 Great question Joe - One of the most important things we can do is make sure that our youth are part of the solution to this issue. Schools have a key role to play in preventing and addressing inappropriate and disrespectful behaviour among students in our schools. These behaviours include bullying, discrimination and harassment. School leaders must be clear that these behaviours are unacceptable in our schools. It promotes respect and understanding for all students. Building a positive and inclusive climate requires a focused effort on developing healthy and respectful relationships throughout the whole school and surrounding community, among and between students and adults.
 
3.  Danny
 By teaching digital literacy at an early age and by having positive role models.
 
4.  Parry Aftab
 this is a great question for Laurel. She has done extensive work in school climate
 
 
This question is for Ms Parry. Do you consider cyber bullying teen victimzation?
 
1.  Mary Chapman
 Definitely. Anyone can be a victim of online victimization.
 
2.  Parry Aftab
 absolutely. Teen victimization online can have several different appraoches. cyberbullying is one. (you can visit stopcyberbullying.org for more info and help). Sexual exploitation is another. Sextortion, where teens are blackmailed becasue of their sexting images is a third. ID theft, impersonation, so many ways all of us, not just teens can be victimized online.
 
 
What can parents do to help prevent Teen Victimization? My daughter wants to use Facebook, AskFM, Twitter - I don't know anything about this stuff. How do I protect her?
 
1.  Laurel Broten
 Parry - will have more on this. But here are some things to raise with your daughter. Awareness and education are the keys to the prevention of cyberbullying. Restrict access to your online blogs, social networking profiles, and IM and Chat profiles to people you know and trust. Learn how to block people from your profiles. Do not share personal information online, whether in social networking sites (MySpace for example), instant message profiles, chat rooms, blogs, or personal websites. Do not share your passwords, even with friends. Do not open emails or read messages from someone you suspect is a bully. Search for your name online to check for postings about you. Set up a Google alert for yourself to continually monitor it.
 
2.  Parry Aftab
 The first question is, is she 13 or older? if not, the answer should be "no". The US laws forbid a website form allowing preteens on the site unless they comply with a special law. These networks/sites are not designed for preteens. If you choose to ignore this recommendation, plz make sure that they register at the youngest allowable age (typically, 13) so that the controls designed for younger teens are there to protect them. Do not let your kids join ask.fm at any age. It is housed in Latvia and they are not responding to advice on safety. More teens are victimized on ask.fm by cyberbullying than anywhere else at this time.
 
 
What steps should teens take if they are approached by a friend through text who is threatening their own life?
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 Facebook has a special report button just for self-harm and suicide threats. learn how to report these. Time is of the essence. Teach the teens in your life how to report them and, just to be sure, how to use a suicide helpline. In Canada, kidshelpphone is a leader. Adults provide support to young people. Laurel is a big supporter.
 
2.  Laurel Broten
 Unfortunately, this is much too common a reality. My advice is always that as a teen you need to help your friend get help. There are great services such as Kids Help Phone that have online and on the phone support for youth in crisis or local mental health and crisis counselors that can be connected to youth in crisis. This is the best thing a young person who wants to help his or her friend can do.
 
3.  Parry Aftab
 tell, right away. tell you, tell their principal, tell their parents. One teen told me that when she did this for one of her best friends she decided that it was better to have an angry friend than a dead one.
 
 
What is the victim issue that teens are most concerned about online
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 my response was posted under the wrong question, sorry. about 1/3 are boys and 2/3s girls in online sexual exploitation. About 60% are girls and 40% are boys in cyberbullying.
 
2.  Parry Aftab
 A student in prepping for one of our global youth summits on cyberbullying suggested that we invite one of the parents of a recent cyberbullycide case that had dominating the news recently. This student (a 14 yr old boy) responded more wisely than any adult. "We have to be careful about the cyberbullying-linked suicides," he said. "They are important for us 2 learn from, as example of what could happen if the right help is not provided. But we can't romanticize or sensationalize them." (honestly his own words!) "Instead, we have to focus on what we can do to prevent them from happening again, by working on intervention." "Cyberbullying kills is the wrong message. But cyberbullying hurts everyone." He managed to bring it all together. His message empowers young people.
 
3.  Parry Aftab
 yes. we work with Carol Todd, Amanda's mom, Glen Canning and Lisa Larsons (Rehtaeh's parents) and most of the suicide families in the US and abroad. They, the kids and we all agree. The message has to be cyberbullying hurts, not kills. And the focus needs to be on intevention to avoid anymore self-harm.Our new site cyberbullyinghurts.org addresses this head on.
 
4.  Joe Laramie
 Do you think there is too much discussion about suicide as a method of cyberbullying prevention?
 
5.  Michael
 Thank you Parry. Who are more victimized by online sexual predators - boys or girls?
 
6.  Parry Aftab
 surprisingly, sexual predators. They still think that the online creeps will show up at their school or homes. But, as I explained that's not how it works. But they also have one serious misconception about cyberbullying. They think teens are committing suicide every day in the hundreds because of cyberbullying. While even 1 is too often, fewer than 40 preteens/teens in North America have taken their own lives connected to cyberbullying.
 
 
How often are teens victimized digitally?
 
1.  Pary Aftab
 about 1/3 of reported or discovered cases are boys, 2/3s girls.
 
2.  Michael
 Thank you Joe. I expect many would be surprised to hear that boys are also often victims of this.
 
3.  Joe Laramie
 As a retired Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Commander I can say absolutely, yes both boys and girls are victims of online offenders. It seems to be a pattern in how we view victimization of our boys very differently than our girls, sometimes almost equating it to boys are responsible for their actions and girls are victims.
 
4.  Laurel Broten
 The stats are pretty tough: Here are a few: 1 in 5 Children are sexually solicited online- only 25% told a parent (Finkelhor, D. (2000). Online victimization of youth. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Bulletin - #07-06-025. Alexandria, VA ). 89% of sexual solicitations occurred in either online chat rooms or instant messaging. Finkelhor, D. (2000). Online victimization of youth. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Bulletin - #07-06-025. Alexandria, VA ). One out of every 3 youth has encountered unwanted sexual material while online (Wolak, J., Mitchell, K., & Finkelhor, D. (2006). Online victimization of youth: Five years later. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Bulletin - #07-06-025. Alexandria, VA ).
 
5.  Michael
 Are boys and girls both victims of online sexual predators?
 
 
Please give me some suggestions how we can get teenagers to advise a parent or trusted adult when they are being bullied, whether it is cyber bullying, physical bullying or psychological bullying.
 
1.  Samantha
 Can you please provide a link or two to your studies? I would like to reference.
 
2.  Parry Aftab
 Good question! our studies have shown that only 5% of the teens will trust their parents with this info. We over and under react, threaten or tell them to log off, blame the Internet, their friends and mama drama! Talk to them now. let them know that other trusted adults may be less threatening and promise not to make things worse if they tell you. At stopcyberbullying.org we have a trusted adults agreement. Download it and give it to your teen. When you sign it, remember to be trustworthy too!
 
 
How do you engage in discussion with minors to inform them of the laws in place regarding their actions when utilizing technology to bully, harass, threaten or send inappropriate images?
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 teens tend to ignore cyberlaws. they are so rarely enforced and their feel so invulnerable. Whenever I speak to teens, they are always surprised to learn that taking a nude pic of themselves may be producing child porn in most states in the US and they could be charged under the same laws child molesters are. This year Wiredsafety is creating a preteen/teen digital law literacy program to teach them about the laws that apply to their online activities, from piracy to cyberbullying to whatever they dream up next. We will also teach them how to get involved with their legislative process to have input and where and how to report digital crimes and abuse.
 
 
How can we prevent our teens from being victimized digitally?
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 Even keeping them entirely offline doesn't work, as others use the medium to attack them for offline hurt. We need to focus more on digital literacy, digital hygiene (passwords, clean machines, etc.) and digital self-defense. Our teens should be a bit more skeptical abut trusting everyone online. They need to be honest about their age so the protections we designed for them on FB and elsewhere know they are teens. They need to trust us more. We need to trust ourselves more. Raising digitally-safe and smart kids is a process. Like teaching them to look both ways when they are three, we have to start early and never let up. Build the filter between their ears. It's the best one we have.
 
 
The State of Florida is considering a bill that would define excessive cyberbullying and the punishment associated with such acts. What are your thoughts on passing a law against this act and the legal penalties for adults and minors?
 
1.  Sam
 The state is looking to codify these punishments-- what are the laws in others states and possibly their penalties? Do they actually dissuade bullying? What type of education does dissuade the bullies themselves?
 
2.  Melissa
 are minors being persecuted and charged as adults with lifelong consequences or treated through the juvenile system? what consequences are they facing legally and are legal consequences typical state to state?
 
3.  Parry Aftab
 Actually Florida already has a cyberbullying law, the Jeff Johnson's Law, named after my friend Debbie's son who took his own life after cyberbullying and bullying years ago. Sheriff Grady Judd (Polk Cty, Fla) had to face the lack of laws when the young girl in his county jumped from a cement tower to her death after being cyberbullied by two teens. I trust Grady, and if he needs more laws, we do too.
 
 
I have seen a great increase in the number of "sextortion" cases where teens fall victim to a perpetrator that talks them into sending an initial self-created image or video and then extorts them into sending more. Do you have suggestions on services/referrals for families dealing with this scenario? The kids don't want to talk about it, are fearful that they are going to be in trouble for being initially compliant, the parents can't believe that their child got involved in something even though they've done everything they can to try to keep them safe....it's just a growing problem. I feel like the only solution is to reduce vulnerability for victims. How do we get them to not fall victim to sending the first image at all?
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 This is very serious. I did the View and Whoopi Goldberg is very passionate about this. We are seeing self-harm in a very high percentage of cases when the blackmailing starts. MTV and AP did a survey that found 3X more teens consider suicide than their peers if they had taken sexting images. A frightening stat. You have to help your teen trust you so you hear about this early. And you need to know where to go for help.
 
 
What approaches/recommendations do you have for middle school girls engaging in cyberbullying/inapproapriate social media use? Student refuses to acknowledge behavior.
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 turn it on its ear. Ask her to help you stop cyberbullying and explore what we need to teach others to do. Sometimes, in finding faults with others, we find faults of our own. we also have a quiz at stopcyberbullying.org that might open her eyes. But remember, not everything we as adults think is cyberbullying is considered cyberbullying by the kids.
 
 
So many female teens put too much personal information on-line then have contact with unknown people, sharing even more information. What are effective techniques to use to help these young women understand the potential dangers of such acts?
 
1.  Laurel Broten
 One of the toughest things is to make sure that we don't blame the victims. I absolutely agree that we have to make young women aware of the ways to protect themselves and they need to protect themselves as per the ideas in a previous answer but because cyber-stalkers and sextortionists like a domestic violence abuser want their victim to become isolated from friends and family members and uses fear to control. We need to tell young women that we won't judge them if they need help and to make sure they come to us for help. Peers are most likely in the best position to deliver a message that young women need to protect themselves online.
 
 
What do you think about teens posting so many "selfies" of themselves on the internet? If their account is set to Private, are they really safe from child predators or bullies that want to terrorize them?
 
1.  Debbie Mahoney
 But, they have been introduced themselves to that teen, most often disguised as another teen, or a really young adult.
 
2.  Parry Aftab
 I will share something with you, but don't tell the teens...no Internet sexual predator, to my knowledge, has ever tracked down a teen offline uninvited. Like vampires, they need an invite in. But selfies invite ridicule. And most cyberbullying comes from friends. It's tough, but they will learn. Just remind them that others may not be kind about these pics.
 
 
How many teens bully, and is it peer pressure?
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 we are seeing between 70% and 85% admit to having done it once. Too many. Peer pressure is one reason. boredom is another. Some think it's funny, others do it to hurt or for revenge or jealousy. I wrote a blog post at parryaftab@blogspot.com on this last week. The different motives makes it harder to address. There is no one size meets all. And Debbie, I am a fan of all you have done with online sexual exploitation of kids in the early days. I saw you on Oprah! (assuming you are the same debbie mahoney :-))
 
 
Another Parent question - many of my friends with young children blog about their kids, posting birthdays and full names...will this be a problem later when they are teens? I try to limit the information on public forums (blog/twitter) to nicknames to help protect my kids for later. My friends think I am a bit over cautious on this.
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 It's a problem now! too much info is too much info. Marketers, creeps and everyone can collect info that is none of their business. The laws protect this info. we should too.
 
2.  Laurel Broten
 This is a tough one - but I agree with you. I am a mother myself and try to be very careful about my kids personal information. If we want to them to understand the need to protect themselves - we need to practice what we preach! The reality with online information is that it is a permanent record - so what might seem like a funny picture when your child in 3 may not seem so funny when they are 13.
 
 
How can we as parents prepare ourselves so we can help our children when they have been a victim of digital abuse?
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 Understand first that you can never be prepared. Period. But, you can be informed. Learn about this now and hopefully you will never need the information. Sharon Rosenfeldt, in Canada, runs the victims of crime, Canada's centre for missing children. Her son was murdered, after being molested. In the US, we have NCMEC that offers extensive resources on the subject.
 
 
What is the most effective way to influence safer behavior among teens, would it be a youth help line, more parent education, schools required to provide youth education... where should we put our energy first?
 
1.  Laurel Broten
 I am a big believer in schools playing a leadership role on this issue because at the end of the day - school is where our kids spend the bulk of their days and where they are with their peers. The focus must be on healthy and respectful relationships throughout the whole school and surrounding community, among and between students and adults. To get this right we need a sustained long-term commitment to put this into practice and change the way we all interact with each other. There are some absolutely fantastic youth led initiatives that have been successful in communities across north a America and beyond - where kids pledged together etc. I will try to post some links.
 
 
Many parents give their child a cell phone and then somehow think that they are safe - recent case of child abduction in MO - girl was in her neighborhood in daylight w/ a cellphone. What more should parents be doing?
 
1.  Laurel Broten
 As parents we have to talk to our kids about how great internet and technology are but that they must be aware of the dangers. Over half (51%) of parents either do not have, or do not know if they have, software on their computers to monitor where their teenagers go online and with whom they interact. (Cox Communications and The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, "Parents' Internet Monitoring Study," February 2005). We need to be more engaged in our children's online life and their online safety - ask questions - start talking about online safety when they are young just like we would talk to them about any other danger in life.
 
2.  Parry Aftab
 I'm familiar with that case, fortunately we had great law enforcement there who pinged the cell phone to find the 11 year old girls location and she was safely recovered. A cell phone can be a lifeline to help and in this case it certainly was!!! Parents can be doing more though by keeping the lines of communication open, asking their children what they do online, having their children show them how they use the internet and digital devices, and by becoming more knowledgeable about the lives children lead online.
 
 
Teachers at asking young children in grade 4 to use the internet for research. Should the school implement a safe computing program before giving their students access to the internet?
 
1.  Laurel Broten
 I think most schools do have safety controls in place and many schools do give kids online safety tips on a regular basis. It is a good idea and there are lots of good resources.
 
 
How can we get the message across to the teens that what they do and say online is not private or just between their friends?
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 Teens are not good at understanding consequences. Experts tell us that our brains have not matured sufficiently for this until early 20's. But ask them what the mean girls or powerhungry bullies/cyberbullies would do with their info if they could. this helps. Interestingly, they tend to protect their private info from us, as parents, more than anyone else.
 
 
As a parent how can we help our kids when they see one of their friends being victimized - when the friend doesn't even realize they are being victimized and may even tell our child that they don't need help?
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 Part of the problem is that parents and digital teens define victimization differently. Even well-meaning experts argue over whether we should say "targets" instead of victims. so, don't use the word "victims" when talking to your child or her friend. Instead, get to the root of the issue. Are they "embarrassing" her? is someone trying to "trick" her? Is someone "hurting" her? I am happy to help you directly with any problem parry@aftab.com, but find time to sit quiestly, listen and eally hear what they are trying to say and offer help for what they express, not their victimization. And remember, you are the parent! you are the adult! you have to intervene whether they want it or not.
 
 
Are all the new digital laws that are being implemented across the country making a difference?
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 a little. Most of the bad things online can be addressed with the laws we already have. But law enforcement needs more money for training and enforcement. We need to know how to report it and where. That is more important than adding new laws. We need to know how to use the ones we have already.
 
 
Other than teachers and parents, who else can teens approach with problems about cyberbullying and other forms of victimization? Based on the role of teachers and parents, teens may be wary of disclosing these things with them. Who shouldn't they be afraid to talk to, though, is what I'm asking?
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 old siblings, aunts and uncles are often trusted adults identified by teens. But teachers are listed most often. we need ot teach them what it means to be a trusted adult.
 
2.  Laurel Broten
 We have found that the entire school staff need to receive training in order to help kids who disclose bullying at school. In fact, although anecdotal there is many many stories about kids telling the school secretary or being helped by the custodian who intervened when something was happening in the hall. But the bottom line is that we have to tell our kids to tell someone who can help them. But if the victim is too scared to tell - someone else must speak up and that is why it is so important to empower the bystanders who are part of the school or online community.
 
 
Has snapchat become a problem and is there a help area?
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 Yes it is a problem. Young ppl often post mean things or naked pics on snapchat thinking no one will be able to find them or prove it. They are wrong. Recently a head of instagram moved over to snapchat. I expect that they will be improving their safety programs soon.
 
 
Would teen boys that ask girls for nude/half nude pictures after friending them be considered bullies or sexual predators? Most young boys share the pictures, but some may just keep them for themselves and then use them to control the girl. Most girls are seeking attention on these social media sites and aren't too rigid on accepting invites by cute boys. Most teens aren't very concerned about privacy settings and feel the more "friends" they have, the more popular they are. What about adult men pretending to be younger boys? Is that common?
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 we separate sexting from sextbullying. Sexting is when you send or ask for nude or sexual images from someone because they are nude or sexual. Sextbullying is when you do it or share them to hurt the reputation of the person in them. It's motive that separates the two.
 
2.  Laurel Broten
 Unfortunately that does happen and child pornography prevention experts tell us that it is a way to normalize sexually inappropriate criminal behaviour and groom young victims. With respect to the teen boys requesting and sharing sexually explicit photos this is becoming increasingly recognized as criminal behaviour. Revenge porn - where once intimate partners post or share images without consent - is also being recognized as criminal activity. All teens need to better understand the consequences of their actions.
 
 
What is the Number 1 things parents should do before letting their kids go online?
 
1.  Parry Aftab
 make the right choices. We have a program Internet 1-2-3. Understand your choices, make them and enforce them. we have some great guides. (I sound like an infomercial :-)) ping me and I will get them to you. WiredMoms is also launching a wiredmoms certification program for moms. (Dads can take it too :-))
 
Return to Discussion