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Siena Poll: Cyberbullying Affecting Capital Region Teens

Cyberbullying can take many forms — and inflict plenty of damage. A new Siena Research Institute poll finds 22 percent of area teens experience cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying has been a longstanding problem among young people in the Northeast and around the country, sometimes blamed for teen suicides and other social problems.

Siena College Research Institute director Don Levy says 73 percent of teens across the Capital Region are on social media at least an hour a day. "Parents told us that nearly nine out of every 10 of their children have a smartphone. And the students themselves told us that they spend well over an hour a day, in some cases as many as three to five hours a day, socializing with other kids."

Forty-one percent of Capital Region parents have rules about technology that they monitor and enforce, while 44 percent have rules but admit they do not strictly enforce them.  A third of teens say that their parents either aren’t very involved or simply have no idea what they are doing online. Perhaps more frightening: "About a third of kids have given their name and gender to someone that they don't know, that they met only online. And in fact, 7 percent of the students we interviewed, and it sounds like a small number until you find out what I'm about to tell you, that 7 percent have agreed to out and meet with someone, in person, that they only met online."

Levy continues:  "The takeaway is that we as adults, as educators, as parents, need to extremely, actively engage with our students and our children, to educate about this problem and to give them someone to talk to. Only one out of every five kids who has been cyberbullied say that they've reached out to a school official. They're embarrassed, they're hesitant to take that information to school officials. So we have to build the pathways to allow those conversations to take place."
Even then there are no guarantees.  In 2009, UAlbany student Denise Finkel tried to sue Facebook because four of her ex-high-school classmates maligned her on the social network. The case was dismissed because Facebook had immunity under the Communications Decency Act. The classmates were absolved by a Long Island judge who ruled that no reasonable person could believe that the allegedly defamatory statements posted on Facebook were facts.

Cyberbullying has attracted national attention. Melania Trump said that when she becomes First Lady she will focus on stopping cyberbullying and increasing civility. AT&T upstate president Marissa Shorenstein says the telecom giant is taking an active role against cyberbullying. "And so as a global technology company, we've decided to create an education campaign, now that we're armed with this research and this knowledge of just how serious this problem is. We've asked students to create films about the issue. We believe that peer-to-peer communication is really the most effective tool. And so teenagers created films on the issue of cyberbullying, and we're sharing those films with other students in a hope that they understand the seriousness of this problem. We unveiled that in Albany, the beginning of an upstate tour, and we plan to take it to parent groups and to educators all across New York state and across the country in 2017."

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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