Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Digital Abuse Study

MTV and the Associated Press recently released the results of a digital abuse survey they administered online to 1,247 participants. The report sheds some light on the digital behaviors of males and females ages 14-24. Some of the key findings of the survey are that 50% of the respondents report that they have experienced some sort of digitally abusive behavior including spreading lies, violation of trust, and digital disrespect. One conclusion of this study finds that more than half of the people who claim to be victims of cyberbullying report that they were "very" or "extremely" upset by it. The survey also found that there is an association between digital abuse and mental health, reporting that young people who have been cyberbullied are twice as likely to report that they have received treatment from a mental health professional (13% to 6%) and three times more likely to consider suicide.

The survey also asked participants questions about sexting behaviors. The report found that while only about 10% of respondents (13% female vs 9% male) reported sharing a naked image of themselves, 30% of all respondents say they have been involved in some type of naked sexting whether it be receiving, sending, or forwarding naked images. The most popular reasons given for forwarding sexts were that respondents thought other people would want to see them (52%), they had a desire to show off (35%), they did it as a joke (31%), and they were bored (26%).

One alarming finding of the survey is that a good number of participants revealed that they do not think about the consequences that their online behavior could have in their lives. Only 51% of young people surveyed say that they have thought about the idea that things they post online could get them in trouble with the police. Only 28% have considered they could get in trouble at school and just 29% with jobs considered that they could get in trouble with their boss for what they post online. It continues to be very important to teach students that what they put online can have negative consequences in their daily lives. The study also found that digital abuse targets young people of all races and socio-economic backgrounds. The executive summary of the report can be read here.

MTV has launched a new website in conjunction with the release of this survey. The site is called a thin line and contains resources on digital abuse, including digital harassment, cyberbullying and sexting. The site also contains strategies for young people on how to avoid digital abuse as well as discussion forums on these topics.

Cell phones and texting technology can also be used for positive things as evidenced in this article published by eSchoolNews last week. The article reports how police in communities across the country are accepting anonymous text messages from tipsters to help solve and prevent crimes. Boston was specifically mentioned as the first city to heavily promote a Text-a-Tip program and which is credited for for providing key leads in at least four murder cases. It is also a great way for young people, who might otherwise fear being targeted for snicthing, to let police know about threats and other crimes anonymously.

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