DENVER (CBS4) – In a way it was bound to happen. Teenagers are spending more time online and less time outside. Guess where the problem behaviors are moving? The National Crime Prevention Council reports more than 43 percent of teenagers now report being victims of cyber-bullying. That’s at the same time when face-to-face bullying went down.

Kevin Everhart of the University of Colorado Denver’s Psychology Department notes that cyber-bullying can go on 24 hours a day.

“They can reach you anywhere and they’re constant. The bully doesn’t have to wait for an opportunity to get you alone to bully you in the locker room,” said Everhart, who is a clinical child pediatric psychologist.

Unlike physical bullying, “There aren’t those sorts of checks and balances of a social environment of a peer group, or teachers or parents standing over who may catch and recognize and intervene sooner.”

Everhart noted that online, even behavior that may not be meant as hurtful may be construed as such because young people can think the worst.

“There’s a certain ambiguity to text messages. We’ve all experienced an e-mail where you get it and you wonder like, I wonder what he meant by that?”

There have been widely publicized cases of suicide and arrests of people who have perpetrated cyber-bullying. Experts know that bullying thrives in secrecy.

“And one of the things we’ve learned over the years is when you turn the lights on and you set school-wide policies, to address bullying, it tends to go away,” Everhart said.

Parents can help prevent it.

“Oftentimes parents are monitoring for a lot of other things, they’re monitoring for drug or alcohol abuse or sexual behavior but they should also be monitoring for victimization because their kids are probably not going to bring that up on their own.”

But should parents kick their kids off the Internet if they’re afraid they’re being victimized? Don’t act too quickly. Everhart said he sees positive things that come out of the technology.

“I see in my practice as well that sometimes kids who have social difficulties sometimes really flourish on Facebook and they’re able to make relationships and friendships.”

— Written by Alan Gionet


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