Back to School: Stand Up to Cyberbullying

September is synonymous with back-to-school for much of the world's youth – getting back in the classroom, reconnecting with friends and teachers and sharing tales of summer fun. For some, however, back-to-school often means a return to cyberbullying.                 

New Microsoft research shows that, on average, 27 percent of people in five countries have been exposed to cyberbullying in the last 12 months. The survey, conducted in Brazil, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, shows that in these countries, cyberbullying features most prominently in Brazil (50 percent) and less so in the U.S. (16 percent).

France, Germany and the UK, meanwhile, fall more in the middle of the pack, with 24 percent, 25 percent and 22 percent of respondents, respectively, stating that they or someone they know have been exposed to incidents of cyberbullying in the past year. These data are part of a larger Microsoft study about consumer online awareness, attitudes and behaviors, and are in line with other similar polling data. Statistics vary, but in the U.S., Europe, Australia, Japan and South Korea, between 10 percent and 40 percent of teens say that at one time or another, they’ve been victims of cyberbullying.

The Cyberbullying Research Center in the U.S. defines cyberbullying as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” Examples include sending hurtful or threatening messages online or to a cell phone; posting embarrassing pictures or information about another person with the intent to humiliate them and impersonating someone online. Global media reports show that, in rare but highly publicized instances, Internet bullying can intensify to such a degree that young people may see taking their own lives as the only way out.  

In an effort to create a “culture of safety” and promote good “digital citizenship” worldwide, Microsoft helps inform parents, caregivers, teachers and school officials about cyberbullying. We've published a list of 10 tips for tackling cyberbullying. These include:

· Be an advocate. Kids need to know that adults can and will provide positive, active and predicable support. And, that they should never, under any circumstance, bully someone.

· Talk about it. Encourage kids to report bullying to a trusted adult.

· Look for signs of online bullying. For example, if kids get upset when they're online, or they show a reluctance to go to or be at school.

· Encourage them to make friends. And, urge friends to look out for one another. Cyberbullies are less likely to target those whom they perceive are well-supported.

Indeed, we make a host of cyberbullying prevention resources available at our Safety & Security Center, including a factsheet, brochure and article, as well as recent cyberbullying research and the associated findings. We participate actively in industry coalitions, and partner with groups such as iKeepSafe, Wired Safety and the Family Online Safety Institute, supporting their efforts to help prevent cyberbullying and reduce other online risks.

Earlier this year, we were invited to and participated in a White House summit on Bullying Prevention, presided over by President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama. We intend to remain active in these dialogues, and work with others in the technology industry, law enforcement, government and advocacy organizations to help reduce instances of cyberbullying.

No individual, company or organization can shoulder such a challenge alone. Like many online risks, combating cyberbullying and harassment are shared responsibilities. The first steps rest with each of us. So, all of us must do our part. As kids head back to school, teach them safer online habits and practices, and encourage them to stand up to cyberbullying.

Posted by Jacqueline Beauchere
Director, Trustworthy Computing Communications, Microsoft

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