As more people become aware of the harmful consequences of cyber- bullying, parents are more likely to report cyberbullying incidents directly to their local police than local school officials.
That’s the finding of a new national survey of 642 American parents conducted by the Fraud Prevention and Investigations business unit of Thomson Reuters.
According to the survey, 36 percent of parents would turn to law enforcement first if they learned that their child was the victim of cyberbullying threats and attacks versus 29 percent of parents who said they would go to their local school officials.
One reason that parents may hesitate going to their local school officials is that 30 percent of parents surveyed didn’t know if their child’s school has a policy to address cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is defined as bullying that takes place using electronic technology, according to stopbullying.gov, a website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Cyberbullying can take many forms – hurtful messages or embarrassing photos posted on social media sites, harassing text messages and e-mails, and private information purposefully shared through text messages, email or through the Internet.
The issue has become a priority for parents surveyed, of which 50 percent indicated that they are very concerned about the rise in cyber- bullying.
Today, more than 80 percent of teens use a cellphone regularly, making it the most common tool among cyber bullies, according to dosomething.org. The presence of teens on social media sites has only compounded the issue, blurring the lines between a schoolyard problem and a law enforcement concern.
In a related survey of U.S. law enforcement professionals conducted by Thomson Reuters in conjunction with PoliceOne.com, 48 percent of law enforcement agencies report that time spent investigating cyberbullying, bullying and school violence has dramatically increased over the past two years. Yet, most law enforcement agencies feel ill-equipped to effectively investigate these cases, with 76 percent reporting that training to handle cyber- bullying complaints has been insufficient.
While parents may trust law enforcement officials more than school officials with handling cyberbullying incidents involving their children, 68 percent of the law enforcement professionals surveyed said that they work to foster stronger relationships with school officials and/or principals to prevent or deter cyberbullying.
"Though cyber bullying is a challenging issue for students, parents, school officials and law enforcement, these statistics suggest that people want to work together to understand the issue, protect kids from cyberbullying, and help kids understand the serious consequences of participating in cyber- bullying," says Jason Thomas, manager of Innovation for Thomson Reuters.