A study by Iowa State University researchers Warren Blumenfeld and Robyn Cooper found about half of "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and allied youths are regular victims of cyberbullying, which causes psychological and emotional distress to victims -- producing thoughts of suicide in some who are repeatedly victimized."
"Allied youth" refers to young people who are openly supportive of LGBT youth.
The survey of 444 junior high, high school and college students between the ages of 11 and 22 (including 350 self-identified non-heterosexual subjects) found that 54% of LGBT youth had been victims of cyberbullying within the past 30 days. 45% of the respondents "reported feeling depressed as a result of being cyberbullied," according to the study's authors. 38% felt embarrassed, and 28% felt anxious about attending school. The authors reported that "more than a quarter (26%) had suicidal thoughts."
As study co-author Warren Blumenfeld pointed out in an interview for a CNET podcast, to be considered bullying "it has to be repeated, it has to exist between people of different power relationships, with someone with more social power, physical strength over someone who's considered to be less powerful." It also has to occur over time with "numerous occasions for even it to be considered bullying."
Blumenfeld said "one of the biggest things that the participants are talking about is that this is a youth leadership issue." Young people "want to see more training developed so that the peer leaders in the schools can be the ones who can act as positive role models to interrupt this kind of behavior in the schools and within the communities and to show in terms of 'norms theory' that this is not acceptable and this is not proper behavior and for the youths themselves to take more responsibility."
He added that there are "are a lot of actors in the drama of bullying ... the perpetrators, those who erk on the perpetrators and those who are the bystanders who know what's going on and do nothing. There also are those who are the "potential allies, those who for one reason or another don't feel comfortable yet to interrupt the behavior." He added that 'there are the actual allies who interrupt the abuse and there are the targets of the abuse."
He said "we really need to find better ways to empower the bystander to be an ally."
On a personal note, Blumenfeld was a childhood friend of mine. We were both bullied in school for, among other things, our last names. Kids called him "Warren Blubberfeld" and me "Larry Faggot." Ironically, he was the one who was gay and I was the one who was overweight.
For more on this story:
Audio interview with study co-author Warren Blumenfeld (CNET podcast)
Tips to help stop cyberbullying (ConnectSafely)
Cyberbullying better defined (NetFamilyNews)
Cyberbullying: Whole school response is the key (NetFamilyNews)
Professional resources for educators (Center for Safe & Responsible Internet Use)