More young people are reaching out to family members after being harassed or taunted online, and it's helping. At least a little.
A poll released Thursday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV found incidents of "digital abuse" are still prevalent but declining somewhat. It found a growing awareness among teenagers and young adults about harm from online meanness and cyberbullying, as well as a slight increase among those willing to tell a parent or sibling.
The findings come a week after two Florida girls, ages 12 and 14, were arrested on felony charges for allegedly bullying online a 12-year-old girl who later killed herself by jumping off a tower at an abandoned concrete plant.
"I feel like we're making progress. People should be encouraged," said Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and professor at Florida Atlantic University.
The AP-NORC/MTV poll found that some 49 percent of all teenagers and young adults in the United States say they have had at least one brush with some kind of electronic harassment, down from about 56 percent in 2011. Of those who have encountered an incident, 34 percent went to a parent - compared to 27 percent just two years ago. And some 18 percent - up from 12 percent in 2011 - asked a brother or sister for help.
When asked what helped, 72 percent of those encountering digital abuse said changing their email, screen name or cell number, while 66 percent said talking to a parent. Less than a third of respondents found retaliation helpful, while just as many said it had no effect and 20 percent said getting revenge actually made the problem worse.
Girls were more likely than boys to be the targets of online meanness - but they also are more likely to reach out for help.
Sarah Ball was a 15-year-old high school sophomore at Hernando High School in Brooksville, Fla., when a friend posted on Facebook: "I hate Sarah Ball, and I don't care who knows."
Then there was the Facebook site dubbed "Hernando Haters" asking to rate her attractiveness, the anonymous email calling her a "waste of space" and this text that arrived on her 16th birthday: "Wow, you're still alive? Impressive. Well happy birthday anyway."
It wasn't until Ball's mom, who had access to her daughter's online passwords, saw the messages that Ball told her everything.
"It was actually quite embarrassing to be honest," remembers Ball, now an 18-year-old college freshman. But "really, truly, if it wasn't for my parents, I don't think I'd be where I'm at today. That's for sure."
The poll also indicated that young people are becoming more aware of the impact of cyberbullying. Some 72 percent, up from 65 percent in 2011, said online abuse was a problem that society should address. Those who think it should be accepted as a part of life declined from 33 percent to 24 percent.
Hinduja credits school programs that are making it "cool to care" about others, and increased awareness among adults who can help teens talk through their options, such as deactivating an account or going to school administrators for help in removing hurtful postings.
That was the case for Ball, whose parents encouraged her to fight back by speaking up. "They said this is my ticket to helping other people," Ball said.
With their help, Ball sent copies of the abusive emails, texts and Facebook pages to school authorities, news outlets and politicians and organized a local anti-bullying rally. She still maintains a Facebook site called "Hernando Unbreakable," and mentors local kids identified by the schools as victims of cyberbullying.
Ball said she thinks if other teens are reaching out more for help, it's as a last resort because so many kids fear making the situation worse. That was one reason Jennifer Tinsley, 20, said she didn't tell her parents in the eighth grade when another student used Facebook to threaten to stab and beat her.
"I didn't want them to worry about me," Tinsley, now a college student in Fort Wayne, Ind., said of her family. "There was a lot of stress at that time. ... And, I just didn't want the extra attention."
According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, every state but Montana has enacted anti-bullying laws, many of which address cyberbullying specifically. Most state laws are focused on allowing school districts to punish offenders. In Florida, for example, the state legislature this year passed a provision allowing schools to discipline students harassing others off campus.
In Florida's recent cyberbullying case, the police took the unusual step of charging the two teen girls with third-degree felony aggravated stalking. Even if convicted, however, the girls were not expected to spend time in juvenile detention because they didn't have criminal histories.
The AP-NORC Center/MTV poll was conducted online Sept. 27 through Oct. 7 among a random national sample of 1,297 people between the ages of 14 and 24. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. Funding for the study was provided by MTV as part of its campaign to stop digital abuse, "A Thin Line."
The survey was conducted by the GfK Group using KnowledgePanel, a probability-based online panel. Respondents are recruited randomly using traditional telephone and mail sampling methods. People selected who had no Internet access were given it for free.
Tuesday, December 10 2013 5:58 AM EST2013-12-10 10:58:43 GMT
Westbound lanes of the turnpike are restricted early Tuesday morning due to a crash involving two semi trucks and a tow truck. Dispatchers with the turnpike say the crash happened sometime after 2 a.m. AccordingMore >>
Westbound lanes of the turnpike are restricted early Tuesday morning due to a crash involving two semi trucks and a tow truck.More >>
Tuesday, December 10 2013 5:53 AM EST2013-12-10 10:53:29 GMT
Toledo Police are responding to reports of two people shot.It happened just before 8:30 p.m. on Pearl Street. That's near Manhattan and Lagrange.At this time, there is no word on the extent of the injuries.13abcMore >>
Toledo Police confirm two people were killed in a shooting in North Toledo.More >>
Tuesday, December 10 2013 5:11 AM EST2013-12-10 10:11:36 GMT
Two tractor trailers collided on the Ohio Turnpike in Lake Township early Tuesday morning. It happened around 2 AM in the westbound lanes near the I-280 interchange. Ohio State Highway Patrol dispatchersMore >>
Two tractor trailers collided on the Ohio Turnpike in Lake Township early Tuesday morning.
It happened around 2 AM in the westbound lanes near the I-280 interchange. Ohio State Highway Patrol dispatchers say one semi was pulled over getting assistance from a tow truck when it was clipped by another semi.
Only minor injuries were reported in the crash.More >>
Monday, December 9 2013 6:12 PM EST2013-12-09 23:12:16 GMT
Some of the workers left jobless by the sudden shutdown of MedCorp say they plan to file a lawsuit against the company for failing to give them notice. The workers were left Friday night without 60 dayMore >>
Some of the workers left jobless by the sudden shutdown of MedCorp say they plan to file a lawsuit against the company for failing to give them notice.More >>
Monday, December 9 2013 5:26 PM EST2013-12-09 22:26:32 GMT
A fire destroyed the home of a mother and her four sons just weeks before Christmas.It happened Saturday evening in the 2000 block of County road 32 in Helena Ohio. 13abc's Alexis Means explains how theMore >>
The community reaches out to help a mother and her four sons after their house was destroyed by fire on Saturday.More >>
Tuesday, December 10 2013 6:05 AM EST2013-12-10 11:05:11 GMT
DETROIT (AP) - Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is relying on others to tell him how much he owes the city. Kilpatrick has waived his attendance at a court hearing Tuesday that will determine hisMore >>
DETROIT (AP) - Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is relying on others to tell him how much he owes the city.
Kilpatrick has waived his attendance at a court hearing Tuesday.
Monday, December 9 2013 10:42 PM EST2013-12-10 03:42:00 GMT
It's been almost a year to the day, that Julia Niswender, 23, was found dead in her apartment.Monday night, her family and closest friends held a candle light vigil to remember her and keep her story inMore >>
Family and friends remember Julia Niswender, 23, Monday night. The Eastern Michigan student was found dead in her apartment in December 2012. Police have not made any arrests in the case.More >>
Monday, December 9 2013 6:46 PM EST2013-12-09 23:46:11 GMT
The victim of a hunting incident in Royalton Township has been identified as 21-year-old Jacob Karamol of Oregon. The incident happened Tuesday afternoon near State Route 109 and County Road N.A spokesmanMore >>
The victim of a hunting incident in Royalton Township has been identified as 21-year-old Jacob Karamol of Oregon.More >>
Monday, December 9 2013 6:31 PM EST2013-12-09 23:31:43 GMT
Toledo Mayor-elect Mike Collins knows he has less money to work with next year and he's ready to take on the challenge of paring down city government. The city will see millions less in revenue in 2014,More >>
Toledo Mayor-elect Mike Collins knows he has less money to work with next year and he's ready to take on the challenge of paring down city government.More >>
Monday, December 9 2013 6:17 PM EST2013-12-09 23:17:45 GMT
A rollover crash helped make an icy mess on a Monday evening. A driver lost control of his vehicle on the ice on West State Line Road and it rolled over and hit fire hydrant. That sent water spraying outMore >>
A driver lost control of his vehicle on the ice on West State Line Road and it rolled over and hit fire hydrant. That sent water spraying out of the hydrant.More >>