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1 in 5 WNY teens have been cyberbullied, new survey says

About one in five teens in Western New York have been cyberbullied and more than half of area teens have witnessed it being done to others, according to survey results released Friday.

The results, issued by the Siena College Research Institute, AT&T and the Tyler Clementi Foundation, also found the amount of online bullying reported in Western New York is less than the upstate average, where one in four teens surveyed said they have been cyberbullied.

“In Western New York, one of every eight parents says that their child has been bullied online compared to one of every six parents across upstate,” Don Levy, director of the institute, said in a news release. “Virtually all parents and nearly 90 percent of teens both across upstate and locally agree that cyberbullying is a serious problem that needs to be addressed before it gets worse.”

Here are some of the other results for Western New York found in the survey:

  • Fifty-five percent of teens reported they have witnessed cyberbullying
  • More than half of parents reported having witnessed cyberbullying
  • Nearly a quarter of area teens said their friends have been cyberbullied
  • Thirty-nine percent said they know other teens who have been bullied online

Only 5 percent of teens surveyed said they have committed acts of cyberbullying, though 11 percent said their friends have bullied others and more than 25 percent said they know other teens who practiced cyberbullying, according to the Siena College Research Institute.

Of those who admitted to cyberbullying, they said their reasons for doing it included to get back at someone, because they were angry at someone or something or because they thought it would be funny.

Nearly one in three teens in Western New York responded to the survey saying they laugh it off when someone posts something negative about them. But 9 percent of all teens and 13 percent of girls said they have cried because of something posted about them or someone close to them, the survey found.

How do teens respond to witnessing cyberbullying? Ten percent told researchers they ignore it in part because they're afraid of becoming the next victim. More than a third said they reach out to the victim, 30 percent try to do something about it and 12 percent report it.

“These stats speak to the staggering problem of cyberbullying,” said Jane Clementi, founder and board member of the Tyler Clementi Foundation. “It’s outrageous and simply unacceptable to allow this to continue. Aggressive behaviors in the electronic world can cause great pain and destruction to one’s spirit. We must instill in our youth the knowledge that technology is only as good as the people who use it. It can be a wonderful and useful tool or a weapon of great harm and destruction, as in the case of many young people today, including my son Tyler.”

The report is based on online interviews conducted by the Siena College Research Institute of 1,255 students in grades six through 12 across upstate New York. Parents had to provide explicit consent in order for the student to participate. Online interviews were also conducted with parents from participating schools. The interviews took place from Sept. 26 to Oct. 23. Tyler Clementi of Ridgewood, N.J., committed suicide in 2010 after his college roommate posted a humiliating video of Clementi online.

The Siena study's findings were addressed at a student assembly at City Honors School Friday.

The packed school auditorium was quiet as Tim and Tracy Rodemeyer gave their personal story about their son, Jamey. The Williamsville North freshman committed suicide after being cyberbullied. He had complained regularly about being the target of homophobic bullying since middle school. In Sept. 2011, he was found dead by his sister, Alyssa. Jamey had hung himself, creating a national movement.

“We’re here today to talk to you about cyberbully and what are the consequences,” said Tracy Rodemeyer tearfully. “Jamey was a typical 14-year old-boy: loving, caring, had the biggest heart, very close to his family, very close to his sister who is two years older… Then once he brought out to the world he thought he might be gay, he was looking for guidance, but instead what he got was hate.”

Also at the City Honors event was recently-elected State Sen. Christopher L. Jacobs, State Sen. Tim Kennedy, State Assemblyman Michael P. “Mickey” Kearns and Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown.

“The end of cyber bullying begins with each and everyone of you,” Brown told the crowd.

 

News staff reporter Deidre Williams contributed to this report.

 

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