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About a third of all teen Internet users say they've been bullied online, according to a report issued today by the nonprofit Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Online harassment, or cyberbullying, ranges from insignificant annoyances to genuine threats, the report said, noting that girls and members of social networking sites reported being the target of such persecution more frequently than others.
The most common form of online harassment was the forwarding of messages presumed to be private, experienced by 15% of teens surveyed. About 13% of teens said someone had spread a rumor about them online. An equal number reported receiving a threatening or aggressive e-mail, IM, or text message. Some 6% acknowledged that someone had posted an embarrassing picture without permission.
Despite the apparent prevalence of online harassment, 67% of teens said offline bullying was more common than the online variety.
Girls reported cyberbullying more often than boys (38% vs. 26%). Whether girls are more willing than boys to report such incidents, the report does not say.
Participation in social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace appears to increase the likelihood of being targeted by cyberbullies. Some 39% of social network users reported having been harassed online, compared with 22% of teens who don't participate in such sites.
"Some teens suggested that it is the mediated nature of the communication that contributes to bullying, insulating teens from the consequences of their actions," the report said.
Indeed, the belief that one won't be held accountable for online actions has given rise to the spam economy and a cornucopia of cybercrimes. Once these teens become adults, they may experience a sense of deja vu.