Digital abuse is growing among teens as seen in the recent case at Rutgers University. Tyler Clementi, only 18 years old, committed suicide after a classmate allegedly posted a video online of him having a gay sexual encounter in his dorm room. This story of exploitation by a peer shines a light on the serious issues of cyberbullying and the improper use of new technology that poses a danger for kids today.
Cyberbullying and Sexting on the Rise
Armed with BlackBerrys, iPhones and the hottest new gadgets, the digital generation is in constant communication. The number of children ages 6-11 that own a cell phone nearly doubled from 2005-2009, reaching 20 percent last year. In the 10-11 age bracket, the numbers are even higher at 36 percent, according to Mediamark Research and Intelligence. Cyberbullying, sexting, online predators and the newest trend, called textual harassment, are all issues that teens now encounter.
According to a recent study, one in four teens in a relationship reports being called names, harassed or put down by their partner through cell phones and texting. Text messages are the easiest form of communication and teens are becoming victims of electronic dating violence. “Where r u? Who r u with? Answer me!” Text messages can pop up on cell phones at any hour of the day. These demands from a boyfriend or girlfriend can be a sign of textual harassment in teen dating. Teens that grew up in digital times may not know the warning signs of this type of abuse because it has become a part of everyday life.
Start Strong Bronx is a healthy relationship program to prevent dating violence. It is funded by a $1 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Blue Shield of California. Based at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center Department of Pediatrics, Start Strong Bronx has a variety of programming to educate teenagers and parents about such dangers.
“People are having relationships over phones,” said program coordinator Alexandra Smith. “They’re not having relationships in person as much as they used to. So we’re trying to teach them through our Teen Advisory Board what can happen if you click before you think.”
According to Brian O’Connor, Director of Public Communications of the Family Violence Prevention Fund, if you’re a victim of cyberbullying or textual harassment, or know someone who is, you can go to the Web sites below for more information.