July 11, 2011

Parents Fearful of Cyberbullying

American Osteopathic Association Survey Shows More Than 85% of Teenagers Are on Social Media

CHICAGO, July 11, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Like a rite of passage, every generation faced bullies at school or in their neighborhood. Whether harassed on the playground or in the classroom, the victim could usually find peace of mind and safety at home. With the rising popularity of social media sites and easier access to the Internet, bullies have found a new way to harass their victims in what is referred to as cyberbullying. In a recent survey by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), more than 85% of parents with teenagers ages 13 to 17 reported that their children had social media accounts. Of that number, more than 52% said that they were concerned about their kids being the victim of harassment or teasing over social media.

Of all parents surveyed, one in six reported knowing that their child had been teased, harassed or bullied over social media sites. The survey also found that some victims started being harassed as young as 9 years old, and in more than half of the cases it was not an isolated incident with the child being a repeat victim of bullying.

Reflecting parents' concerns over their children's well-being, more than three-quarters of parents have discussed cyberbullying with their children and 86% have taken steps to monitor their teenagers' interactions by joining their social network or connecting with them online. Two out of three parents surveyed also went as far as monitoring the security settings on their children's social media accounts.

Jennifer N. Caudle, DO, an AOA board-certified osteopathic family physician practicing in Little Rock, Ark., who has spent years lecturing and conducting community outreach on bullying and childhood aggression issues, agrees that parents should be concerned about cyberbullying.

"While bullying through physical intimidation has long been a problem among teenagers, cyberbullying by using computers and smart phones to send rumors or post cruel messages has become more prevalent in recent years," explains Dr. Caudle. "Even though there might not be physical injuries, cyberbullying leaves deep emotional scars on the victim."

Dr. Caudle noted the following long-term effects of cyberbullying, including:

  • Poor academic performance.
  • Anxiety and loss of interest in socializing.
  • Aggression or violence towards others who they feel they can bully.
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts.

Other survey results of note:

  • When asked about the different places their teenagers accessed social media accounts, almost 97% said that their children used a computer at home. The second most popular point of access was a smart phone or cellular device.
  • One in seven parents prohibit their children from using a social media site. The most common reasons cited for keeping children from having a presence on social media were they were too young or lack of privacy.
  • The survey also found that cyberbullying was twice as common among girls compared to boys, with about two-thirds of cyberbullying occurring among females. Furthermore, more than three-quarters of parents felt cyberbullying was a greater concern for girls.
  • Parents ages 30 to 39 were more likely to be aware that their child had been teased, harassed or bullied online than parents 39 or older.
  • While more than 91% of parents felt it is the responsibility of parents or guardians to resolve bullying issues over social media, less than half felt it was the responsibility of teachers or school officials to resolve these issues.

About the Survey

The survey results are being announced in advance of the AOA's House of Delegates meeting, where more than 500 delegates representing osteopathic state medical associations, specialty societies, interns, residents and students from throughout the country will meet to vote on organizational policy, including a measure on Cyberbullying Through Social Media. With the survey showing that only one in seven parents have spoken to their physician or health care provider about cyberbullying, the proposed policy calls for increased awareness about the dangers of cyberbullying and encourages osteopathic physicians (DOs) to discuss with their patients the impact that cyberbullying can have on a young person's health.

The survey was conducted from June 25 to June 30, 2011. A total of 1,131 respondents completed the online survey. A sample size of 1,037 has a margin of error of approximately

± 2.9 % at the 95 % confidence level.

About the American Osteopathic Association

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 78,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs); promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at www.osteopathic.org.

SOURCE American Osteopathic Association