The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

October 25, 2013

More victims of online abuse reach out to parents

(Continued)

"I feel like we're making progress," said Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and professor at Florida Atlantic University. "People should be encouraged."

When asked what helped, 72 percent of those encountering digital abuse responded that they changed their email address, screen name or cell number and it helped, while 66 percent who talked to a parent said it helped too. Less than one-third of respondents who retaliated found that 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 were more likely to talk to reach out for help.

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," she said.

With their help, Ball sent copies of the abusive emails, texts and Facebook pages to school authorities, news outlets and politicians, and organized an anti-bullying rally. She still maintains a Facebook site called "Hernando Unbreakable," and she mentors local kids identified by the schools as victims of cyberbullying.

She said she thinks if other teens are reaching out more for help, it's as a last resort because so many kids fear making it 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.

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