Twitter Is Turning Into a Cyberbullying Playground

Researchers find that over 15,000 bully tweets are sent every day.
Twitter bullying allows mean girls, boys, and adults to flourish in the cyber world. (Chris Whitehead/Getty)
Aug 7, 2012
A former Gourmet staffer, Lawrence enjoys writing about design, food, travel, and lots of other stuff.

“A new study of what types of tweets people are sending shows that some of us have a mean streak: there are over 100,000 insulting, teasing, and otherwise nasty tweets sent on the network every week,” reports mediabistro. “Bullying is a problem for many children on the school yard, and it’s crept into their digital worlds as well.”

One of the researchers’ more interesting findings was that, “they were able to identify the typical roles in a bullying encounter on Twitter, such as the bully, victim, accuser and defender, but that they also identified a new role: the reporter.”

“This is a child who witnessed bullying but didn’t participate in any way. This raises questions of why children are not speaking up about bullying to adults in their lives, instead turning to 140-character observations.”

MORE: Students Judge Bullies in New Los Angeles Teen Court

The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) says that parents have an important role to play in helping to stop cyberbullying. They can “start by talking to kids about the issue and teaching them the rules below that will help prevent cyberbullying from happening to them or someone they know.”

Among the NCPC suggestions:

“If someone sends a mean or threatening message, don't respond. Save it or print it out and show it to an adult.”

“Don't put anything online that you wouldn't want your classmates to see, even in email.”

“Don't send messages when you're angry. Before clicking "send," ask yourself how you would feel if you received the message.”

Now, if you stop and think about it for a moment or two, there are probably quite a few adults who should heed that advice as well.

But back to the kids, for now.

On Monday, The Washington Post reported on a new online anti-bullying campaign saying, “The campaign is a joint effort by the Ad Council, a nonprofit that distributes public service announcements, and the Free to Be Foundation, a group that includes entertainers Marlo Thomas, Alan Alda and Mel Brooks. In one television ad, two girls are seen bullying a schoolmate, mocking her appearance and telling her that nobody likes her. A fourth girl looks on but doesn’t intervene.”

The Post also notes that, “Of particular concern to education advocates is bullying directed against students perceived to be gay or lesbian—such as Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old who killed himself in 2010 after allegedly being bullied online by his college roommate, who was convicted of invasion of privacy and other charges for using a webcam to film Clementi and another man kissing.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is quoted as saying, “We are all responsible for our children’s safety . . . And no one can afford to be a bystander.”

My suggestion is that everyone make “Think Before You Tweet” their new motto.

What else do you think can be done to stop cyberbullying by both kids and adults? Leave suggestions in COMMENTS.

Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence |

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