Teenager Austin Stewart did something a friend didn't like and the next thing she knew "a nonstop flood of hurtfulness" was posted about her on Facebook and other networking websites.
"It was all about how stupid I was - and a lot of stuff about my appearance," said the 17-year-old, a former Palo Alto High School student. Being the object of an online attack - the Internet's version of a schoolyard taunt or slam - isn't new. And it wasn't the first time it had happened to Stewart. But according to a nationwide survey released last week, the number of kids who report being victimized this way, one in three, has become a rapidly rising concern for teens, parents and educators.
The survey of more than 900 teens ages 12 to 17, conducted by the Pew Research Foundation's Internet Project, also found that the more time that kids spend online, the more likely they are to experience "cyberbullying." The results also showed that users of social network sites such as MySpace and Facebook were more than twice as likely to be harassed online as those who didn't log on to those sites.
None of that should come as a surprise, said Amanda Lenhart, the project's senior research specialist. "Bullying is coming to you in the space where you spend time," she said.
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