Sextortion Among Adolescents

Thirteen-year-old Amanda Todd made a mistake. The British Columbia teen had just moved to a new town and turned to the Internet to meet people. She’d been chatting online with a man whom she’d become interested in. He said she was pretty. After more than a year of communicating with the man, he convinced her…

Are “Gamers” More Likely to be “Bullies”?

Conventional wisdom and media headlines would have one believe that those who play video games are more at risk for engaging in a host of anti-social behaviors. There is certainly nothing new about this mentality: It was prominent in my 80s-era adolescence as well. I remember spending many hours playing Mortal Kombat on the classic…

journal of school violence bullying cyberbullying suicide

Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Suicide Among US Youth: Our Updated Research Findings

There continues to be a lot of discussion involving bullying, cyberbullying, and suicide both in the media as well as in social circles of parents, educators, and other youth professionals. I just looked up “suicide and bullying” on Google News and in just this past weekend alone there are multiple stories involving different kids in…

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International Journal of Bullying Prevention

As a cyberbullying scholar, I engage in research related to its identification, prevention, and response and seek to get articles based on this research published in academic journals. By doing so, we can contribute to the extant knowledgebase concerning what we know about cyberbullying, inspire other researchers to advance the proverbial ball, equip educators, mental…

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Federal Commission on School Safety

Yesterday, I testified on “cyberbullying and social media” in front of the Federal Commission of School Safety, chaired by Secretary Betsy DeVos and comprised of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (Homeland Security), Secretary Alex Azar (Health and Human Services), and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Collectively, they are trying to garner insight on the ecology of schools and…

Empower and Educate, Don’t Just Create Panic

Last weekend a Facebook post by the Polk County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office went viral. As of this writing (less than a week later), the post had been shared more than 58,000 times (including by three of my personal Facebook friends, which is how I came to notice it). This wasn’t a post asking for the…

Student Experiences with Reporting Cyberbullying

Most students who are bullied do not report their experiences to adults. This was true 30 years ago when I endured middle school and our research shows it largely continues to this day. I remember being surprised (though maybe I shouldn’t have been) to learn from our first pilot study undertaken 15 years ago that…

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Emoji as Threats in Student Messages and Social Media

When we speak to students in schools across the nation, we always focus on the positives of social media while also sharing case studies to underscore the reminder they frequently need to hear: “pause before you post.” While there are numerous examples of students missing out on college and university slots, scholarships, and employment opportunities…

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Cyberstalking

I was chatting with some of my students yesterday about cyberstalking, and just as I suspected, at least a few had experienced it and were able to share compelling stories about what happened. It reminded me of two times I personally dealt with it as well, one by a fellow student in undergrad that lasted…

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The Priority for Cyberbullying Prevention

With First Lady Melania Trump mentioning cyberbullying as the major social issue she would like to prioritize and tackle during her husband’s U.S. presidential administration, everyone in my line of work has been buzzing about what that could possibly mean. These last eight years have brought good progress with anti-bullying and anti-cyberbullying efforts by the…

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Discord: A Chat App Not Just For Gamers

It annoys me so much when well-intentioned adults label certain apps as “dangerous” or “evil.” I’ve recently heard such descriptive words about a relatively new app called Discord. Like most new platforms that have come down the pike, there is nothing inherently problematic about it as the majority of participants use it in positive, productive,…

Messenger Kids Isn’t the Problem, But Perhaps Part of the Solution

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood wrote Mark Zuckerberg a public letter today asking the Facebook CEO to shutter its recently released “Messenger Kids” app. The concerns raised by these well-meaning organizations and advocates center on the risks potentially created by the early adoption of technology among kids. I’m unpersuaded by their argument and feel…

Most Teenagers Aren’t Asking for Nude Photos

A recent New York Times headline caught my attention: “Teenagers, Stop Asking for Nude Photos.” Sage advice, I must admit, but I wondered where this was coming from. In the article, Psychologist Lisa Damour argues that we have long been warning children about the dangers (reputational and potential legal consequences) of sending sexually explicit images,…

Teens Talk: What Works to Stop Cyberbullying

Many people like to ask me what works to stop cyberbullying when it happens. While I have some ideas on this question (over 15 years of studying the problem will lead to more than a few thoughts!), Sameer and I also like to hear directly from students about what they think will work, and—maybe more…

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A Teen’s Perspective on Social Media

Each year, we like to share a teen’s perspective regarding their social media use so that youth-serving adults can be “in the know” as to what adolescents are up to these days. I hope it updates you and provides an instructive viewpoint on the way in which teens approach technology use, friendships, online hate –…

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Positive Post-It Day

In case you haven’t heard, Positive Post-It Day is a worldwide phenomenon – and it all began with a Canadian teenager in the fall of 2014 who wanted to flip the script on bullying. Alberta student Caitlin Haacke was bullied at school and threatened on Facebook with suggestions to take her own life. Instead of…

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The Social Bond: A Practical Way for Schools to Reduce Bullying

If you work in the youth safety space, you know that certain initiatives (such as resilience building) have focused on targets of bullying and cyberbullying. Other programming has concentrated attention on aggressors – to the kids who harass, humiliate, and threaten other youth offline and online. Here, restorative practices and social emotional learning (anger management,…

Digital Self-Harm

Digital Self-Harm: The Hidden Side of Adolescent Online Aggression

“You should jump off a roof and kill yourself.” “You’re pathetic and don’t deserve to be alive.” “If U don’t kill yourself tonight, I’ll do it for you.” Each of these comments was recently posted to a popular anonymous social media app. I was contacted by a police officer who was investigating the incident. We…

Be Careful Who You “Friend” Online: A Cautionary Tale

In our school assemblies, Sameer and I regularly talk with students about using social media safely and responsibly. One part of this discussion focuses on encouraging youth to only connect on private accounts with those they know and trust. In general, if a Facebook user, for example, has their privacy settings configured in a way…

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My Fulbright Award for Bullying and Cyberbullying Prevention

This past summer, I served as a Fulbright Specialist at the Anti-Bullying Centre (ABC) at Dublin City University (DCU) in Dublin, Ireland. It was an amazing experience. I just wanted to take a few minutes to share what it involved, who I spent time with, and how it made an impact – not just short-term,…

The Skinny on Sarahah

Sarahah is the latest social media application to create a stir. Simply put, Sarahah is a one-way, many-to-one anonymous messaging system that allows people to send messages to a particular person without the recipient knowing who sent them. These can come from people you know (from those in your phone contacts, for example) or from…

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Harmful Speech Online: At the Intersection of Algorithms and Human Behavior

    Last week, I attended a workshop at Harvard entitled “Harmful Speech Online: At the Intersection of Algorithms and Human Behavior.” Sponsored and organized by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Institute for Strategic Dialogue, and Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Public Policy, its goal was to “broadly explore harmful speech…

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How Machine Learning Can Help Us Combat Online Abuse: A Primer

Ten years ago, computer scientists would contact our Center and ask if we could give them thousands of examples of cyberbullying content – which they wanted to comb through to look for trends and patterns in how harm was inflicted. Nowadays, they don’t ask for data because it’s widely available for them to web scrape…

More on the Link between Bullying and Suicide

Last week I received an email from Martin Cocker, a friend and colleague who runs the Netsafe organization in New Zealand. Netsafe is a one-stop shop for all things related to online safety. If you are a New Zealander who is being mistreated online, or work with someone who is, Netsafe can help. Last year…