Updates and Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Skip to main content

KNOXVILLE — More than one-third of teens report being “harassed” via cell phones, e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging, chat rooms, blog postings or the Internet over the course of a recent school year.

Fifteen of every 100 cell phone users ages 12 to 17 have received nude or partially nude photos over their phones, according to a recent study from the Pew Research Center.

Professor David Dupper of the College of Social Work at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, said these alarming statistics indicate “cyberbullying” and “cyberstalking” are on the rise. Yet, he said, people can lower their chances of falling victim to this digital-world crime by using common sense, being careful with technology and passwords and promptly reporting suspicious activity.

This week, UT officials alerted the campus community after some students reported that they had been the victims of a cyberstalker.

The National Center for the Victims of Crime defines “cyberstalking” as “threatening behavior or unwanted advances directed at another using the Internet and other forms of online and computer communications.”

Dupper, who’s currently working on a manuscript on this topic, spent nearly 15 years working as a social worker in middle and high schools in Florida before his work in higher education. He’s written two books, numerous book chapters and many papers on topics including school violence, bullying, school discipline and at-risk students.

“In addition to providing opportunities for establishing and maintaining positive relationships with peers, electronic devices — computers, cell phones and smart phones – and the anonymity that they provide, also create opportunities for levels of meanness that we do not see in face-to-face bullying,” Dupper said.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called ‘electronic aggression’ an emerging adolescent health issue. The CDC estimates that as many as 35 percent of teens have experienced some kind of electronic aggression through cell phones, e-mail, instant messaging, text messaging, chat rooms, blog postings or the Internet over the course of a recent school year. Another study reported that 8 percent of youth were harassed at least once a month during a recent year.

“Female students are more likely to be victims of cyberbullying than male students,” Dupper said.

And, he added, “about 4 percent of cell phone owners between the ages of 12 to 17 admit to having sent nude or nearly nude images themselves to others.”

Dupper provides this advice to help people sidestep problems when using Facebook, Skype and other forms of social media:

  • Always be as polite online as you are in person.
  • Don’t send messages when you’re angry. Before clicking “send,” ask yourself how you would feel if you received the message.
  • Don’t put anything online that you wouldn’t want others to see, even in e-mail.
  • Never give out personal information online, whether in instant message profiles, chat rooms, blogs or personal websites.
  • Never open e-mails from someone you don’t know or from someone you know who has been harassing you.
  • If someone sends a mean or threatening message, don’t respond. Save it or print it out and show it to your parents, other authority figures or police.
  • Never tell anyone — even friends — your password. Likewise, keep your cell phone keypad locked and your PIN or password secure so someone else can’t use your phone without your permission.
  • Don’t send texts or capture photos or video on your cell phone that you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with the world. All of the text, photos and videos you create with your phone are saved and available as digital evidence. They are stored on your provider’s server or website or on the flash memory or SIM card of your phone — even if you’ve deleted them.

For more tips on avoiding cyberbullying, see http://www.cyberbullying.us.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034 or 865-789-1692, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu)