Tag Archives: internet

Cyberbullying – Monitoring Children’s Social Media Usage Is Important, but So Is Allowing Their Mistakes

AscentiveCyber safety tips from the Ascentive team

Facebook has provided millions of people worldwide with an unmatched outlet for sharing information about their lives. Through the social network giant, establishing community with old friends and new has never been easier.

But Facebook also presents an assortment of issues — especially for parents, according to a Kansas State University parenting expert.

 

Chuck Smith, professor of emeritus of family studies and human services at the university’s College of Human Ecology, says increased usage of Facebook by children has sparked questions of how to prevent cyberbullying and protect their personal privacy. Simultaneously, some parents have been forced to consider how much information they should share about their children on Facebook.

 

But despite the risks, Smith says using Facebook is worthwhile for children if parents remain aware.

“Facebook is a tool that could be used for good or bad,” Smith said. “It’s up to parents to help their children understand how to use it well and be vigilant about misuse.”

 

Online bullying is Smith’s primary concern among young Facebook users. Preventing online bullying should involve parents retaining essential control of a child’s Facebook account, he said. This allows parents to read all posts and ensure the highest levels of security settings are in place. Appropriate security settings are beneficial in a variety of contexts, including Smith’s other primary concern with young Facebook users: online predators.

To counteract possible negative influences, Smith advises parents of children under 16 years old to have the family use the computer in a common area — something that may not sit well with some children.

“The impact on relationships could be with children regarding parents as too intrusive in their personal lives,” Smith said. “Though as long as the children are living in the home, parents have every right to be vigilant.

“For parents, vigilance changes with the child’s age, but you still have to be responsible.”

Parents should instruct their children on responsible sharing of information early, but parents also should allow a reasonable amount of freedom for children to make their own mistakes, Smith said. Failure to allow a meaningful amount of freedom could be detrimental to the parental-child relationship.

“The younger generation is very much an online generation,” Smith said. “We have to be realistic and teach them about the danger and responsibility of posting online and considering what they might say and how they might react. Parents who are overly restrictive might lose their opportunity.

Standards of responsibility also exist for parental social media usage — especially when it concerns their children. Smith advises parents consider their own security settings before sharing certain information about their children. The same principle applies for any sort of related information, including when the family will be on vacation.

“You have to be aware of who you have given permission to view the page,” Smith said.

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Educator argues that Cyberbullying is not caused by Social Media

AscentiveJason Falls, a leading educator, public speaker and thinker in the world of digital marketing and social media, is calling on teachers to embrace social media in the classroom and harness the power of that technology to expand learning opportunities that have never before been possible.

“Social media and the ability to collaborate and communicate through the Internet tears down geographic boundaries [and] brings cultural diversity to students that normally wouldn’t have it,” said Falls, founder of Social Media Explorer.

Falls’ advice to teachers: “Embrace this.  You can only teach if you learn.”

In an exclusive interview for the Verizon Thinkfinity Education Speaker Series, Falls discusses how social media and other technology are often wrongly blamed for some of society’s most destructive behavior.

“Cyberbullying is certainly a concern to parents and teachers everywhere, but cyberbullying is not the result of social media,” he said.  “It’s the result of somebody being a bully, and that happens offline as well as online.”

Falls is the fifth speaker in the Thinkfinity Education Speaker Series, following retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Dr. Benjamin Carson, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and Harvard Professor Chris Dede.

Reflecting on the evolution of communications, Falls said that texting and other forms of social media are not responsible for any decline in students’ writing ability.  He noted:

“Kids have become more efficient with their communications, as opposed to less professional with grammar and punctuation.  Take those same students and have them write a term paper or an email, and they’re not going to communicate with abbreviated codes and ‘LOLs.’  If they have bad grammar, punctuation and spelling, it has nothing to do with texting; it has to do with their education.”

Falls’ conversation with Katrina Allen, program director of 21st century learning at St. Philip’s Academy, is available for free in the Verizon Thinkfinity Community section of the Verizon Thinkfinity.org website.

Al Browne, national director and vice president – education and technology, Verizon Foundation, said, “Studies show that only 14 percent of teachers are using social media, compared with 87 percent of students.  Rather than allow fear to rule out opportunity, experts like Jason Falls can guide us in the effective use of social media to enrich learning experiences.”

The Verizon Thinkfinity Education Speaker Series is an online series that enables educators and parents to connect with some of the most inspiring voices in education.

The series is available exclusively to members of the Thinkfinity Community, a virtual home to engaging, thoughtful dialogue on some of today’s most challenging classroom issues.  Anyone can join the Thinkfinity Community for free.

The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon, uses its technology, financial resources and partnerships to address critical social issues, with a focus on education and domestic violence prevention.

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New Survey Shows Gap Between Americans’ Online Security Perceptions and Actual Practices

AscentiveInternet Safety News from the Ascentive team

More than nine in ten Americans (92%) believe that a safe and secure Internet is crucial to our nation’s economic security and 81% of Americans want to learn more about being safe and secure online, but there still exists a visible disconnect between Americans’ perceptions of their online safety practices versus the reality of their actual safety practices. These insights were revealed in the 2011 National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA)-McAfee Online Safety Study, released today by the NCSA and McAfee.

While the study found progress in a number of areas regarding online safety awareness, perception versus reality gaps continue to exist in critical areas:

70% of Americans say that they represent their child/children’s primary source of information for online safety, yet 48% of parents are not completely confident that their children can use the Internet safely.

32% of consumers either back up data only once a year—or never (20%).

15% of Americans have never checked their social networking privacy and security account settings.

According to the survey, only 7% of U.S. parents are worried about cyberbullying even though 33% of teenagers have been victims of cyberbullying, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Survey.

“This new study shows that vast majorities of Americans believe that cyber security is important for our personal safety and our nation’s economic security,” said NCSA Executive Director Michael Kaiser. “Yet this survey also shows that we can do a better job of protecting ourselves and those around us and really focus on the notion that a safe and secure Internet and digital experience represents a shared responsibility.”

“As our digital usage grows exponentially each year with a multitude of different devices connected to the Internet, cyber threats have grown more sophisticated and widespread than ever before,” said Todd Gebhart, co-president, McAfee. “This new survey demonstrates the fundamental importance of better online safety and security awareness for ourselves, our communities, our schools and our businesses.  Consumers need to think beyond just PCs, and also protect their web experiences, their data, and very importantly, their children on all the devices they use.”

Key Findings:


Security Perceptions

Less than half of the population (46%) reports that they feel safe from viruses, malware and hackers while on the Internet.

When it comes to the issue most Americans are concerned about regarding online safety and security, 43% of respondents reported they were most worried about identity theft; 13% were concerned with loss of privacy; and 12% reported their biggest concern was someone monitoring or recording their online activity.

When asked how people would like to learn about staying safe online, 37% of Americans are willing to receive regular information from an organization about safety best practices; 15% are willing to educate others; 13% would attend an in-person education session; 20% are not willing to do any of these and 15% are not sure.

Crime and Law Enforcement

When asked what puts Americans most at risk of a cybercrime or a loss of personal information the largest number of respondents, one-third (33%) said they believe connecting to an unsecured wireless network puts them most at risk yet more than half (53%) of Americans said they have logged onto a wireless network without entering a security password.

One in 5 (18%) Americans have been the victim of a cybercrime and 38% know someone who has been victimized, and 65% of all respondents do not think their local police department is equipped to handle reports and investigate Internet crimes.

Of the 17% who were victims of cybercrime but did not report them, 34% were either unsure what exactly happened or were not sure who to report it to.

More than half (53%) of Americans indicated they have received fake anti-virus warnings but 87% said they did not believe the warning was legitimate. From 2008 to 2010, fake anti-virus scams have grown by 600% and are estimated to victimize one million Internet users per day, according to McAfee research.

Safe Computing Practices

54% of Americans don’t back up their data regularly; with 21% backing up just monthly; 12% backing up only once a year and 20% of consumers never backing up.

21% say they don’t think it’s necessary to change account passwords regularly even though experts believe this is a basic online safety practice.  More than a million password-stealing malware samples were discovered from January 2011 –June 2011, according to McAfee Labs.

25% say they never change their passwords unless prompted.

Social Networks

26% say they are sharing more information on social networks today than one year ago.

Nearly half (47%) of Americans are confident in their ability to use privacy and security account settings in their social networks, but another 47% are only somewhat confident with 24% saying they are not confident at all.

15% of respondents have never checked their social networking privacy and security account settings and only 18% said the last time they checked their settings was in the last year.

Meanwhile, one out of ten (11%) Americans reported that their social network has been hacked in the last year, while 81% did not.

Children and Online Safety

70% of Americans say that they represent their child/children’s primary source of information for online safety, yet 48% of parents are not completely confident that their children can use the Internet safely.

According to the survey, parents worry most about contact with strangers (38%) online, 7% worried about bullying and harassment and 9% were worried about identity theft even though 140,000 minors are the victims of ID fraud each year according to ID Analytics.

The concern that ranked second according to parents was exposure to adult content yet 44% of parents admit they have not discussed Internet pornography with their children and 44% don’t have content-filtering software on their computers.

48% of the parents surveyed say they know their child/children have seen pornography online and of the parents who aren’t sure if their kids have seen adult content, 68% think it unlikely that they have.

Of those parents who don’t have content-filtering software, 34% say they trust their kids.

Workplace Cyber Security Practices

The survey also polled a sub-sample of Americans cyber security practices and attitudes in their workplace.  The survey found that a majority say their employer has a formal work Internet usage policy (59%) while 26% do not.

But respondents are split as to whether or not they have had training on keeping their work computers safe and secure (43% to 43%).

Seven in ten (69%) say that a safe and secure Internet is dependent to their job, 45% of which say it is very dependent. Six in ten (61%) say that losing Internet access at their job for 48 consecutive hours during a regular business week would be disruptive, 43% say it would be extremely disruptive.

A 2011 NCSA/Symantec study of small businesses finds that two thirds (66%) say that their business is dependent on the Internet for its day-to-day operations, two fifths of which (38%) would characterize it as very dependent.  Two thirds (67%) of small business owners describe their businesses as more dependent on the Internet than it was 12 months ago.

Age Disparities

Respondents ages 18-54 feel that individual users are most responsible for keeping the Internet safe and secure, whereas users 55 and older believe that it is the Internet service provider who is most responsible.

As the age of the user increases, so does their concern over identity theft, with 40% of 18-29 year olds, 39% of 30-49 year olds, 47% of 50-64 year olds, and 50% of those 65+ citing this as their largest concern.

As respondents’ age increases, a smaller percentage feels safe using smartphones with 23% of 18-29 year olds, 11% of 30-49 year olds, and 2.5% of 50-64 year olds feeling safe accessing the Internet using their smartphones.

Gender Attitudes Towards Cyber Security

If a computer were infected by a virus or malware, and the user was provided step-by-step instructions to fix it, only 31% of females feel very confident in fixing the computer on their own versus 53% of males who feel very confident about pursuing this task.

Nearly one in every five males (or 19%) backup their data and digital information on a daily basis while a less amount of females – only 12% – do so each day.

Thirty-eight percent of females have undergone training to keep their computer safe and secure at work, while 48% of males received training about safe and secure cyber security practices in the workplace.

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New Study reveals Strong Social connections may lead to Cyber Bullying

IAscentiventernet Safety from the Ascentive Team

What leads people to exhibit hostile or even violent behavior toward others? New research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business suggests that being socially connected increases the tendency to view others outside the group as less than human — and even treat them as such.

Although many studies have noted the personal benefits that strong social connections provide, such as increased self-esteem, happiness and physical health, it now appears that what is good for oneself, may not be so good for others. Whether it is cyber bullying in schools, gang violence or war detainees being tortured, these acts illustrate the negative consequences of strong social connections.

The research, co-authored by Adam Waytz, assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School, and Nicholas Epley, professor of behavioral science at Booth, finds that feeling socially connected may enable people to view others outside the group as subhuman.  This suggests that the most tightly knit groups — from military units to athletic teams — may also be the most likely to treat their adversaries as subhuman animals.

“Being socially connected to close others has great benefits for one’s own physical and mental health,” wrote the authors. “But it also satiates the motivation to connect with others and can increase the perceived distance between us and them.” Rather than feeling animosity toward those outside one’s social circles, the research finds that people may instead think of outsiders as having diminished mental capacities, more like objects or animals than as fully-developed persons.

Predicting that feeling socially connected would increase the tendency to dehumanize more socially distant others, Waytz and Epley conducted four experiments to test their theory.

In the first three experiments, the researchers found that participants who were thinking about a person close to them were more likely to dehumanize other people. Compared to the control group who were not asked to think about people they were close to, these participants either failed to attribute humanlike mental states or characteristics to distant others or reported that it is acceptable to treat others like animals.

In the fourth experiment, participants were divided into two groups. Participants in the “connected” study group completed the study with a friend in the room; the others completed the study with a stranger in the room. Both groups were presented with photos of 11 individuals described as terrorist detainees responsible for plotting the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Participants then answered a series of questions, including the degree to which they found torture techniques such as waterboarding and electric shock acceptable.

Waytz and Epley found that the participants in the “connected” group who completed the study with a friend in the room “dehumanized the detainees significantly more than did participants in the control condition and were also significantly more willing to endorse harming them.”

Beyond the most extreme cases of violence and inhumane treatment, this research suggests that there are considerably more varied and subtle consequences to dehumanization in everyday life— from harassment in the workplace to overly aggressive fans at sporting events to supporting aggressive government policies.

“Any factor that creates disconnection from others, such as power, socioeconomic status or anonymity, may therefore enable dehumanization by disengaging people from the minds of others,” the authors wrote. “The present research suggests that social connection is one such factor that can increase disengagement with the minds of more distant others, leading to a failure to see people as they really are.”

The study, “Social Connection Enables Dehumanization,” is forthcoming in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

 

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Cyber-Bullied Teens twice as likely to Use Tobacco, Alcohol, and Marijuana

AscentiveInternet Safety tips from the Ascentive team

American teens ages 12-17 who in a typical day spend any time on social networking sites are at increased risk of smoking, drinking and drug use, according to the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVI: Teens and Parents, the 16th annual back-to-school survey conducted by The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia).

The survey asked 12- to 17-year olds whether they spend time on Facebook, MySpace or other social networking sites in a typical day. Seventy percent of teens report spending time on social networking sites in a typical day compared to 30 percent of teens that say they do not. This means that 17 million 12- to 17-year olds are social networking in a typical day.

Social Networking Teens at Increased Substance Abuse Risk
Compared to teens that spend no time on social networking sites in a typical day, teens that do are:

  • •Five times likelier to use tobacco;
  • •Three times likelier to use alcohol; and
  • •Twice as likely to use marijuana.

Teen Substance Abuse Photos Rampant on Social Networking Sites
The CASA Columbia survey found that 40 percent of all teens surveyed have seen pictures on Facebook, MySpace or other social networking sites of kids getting drunk, passed out, or using drugs. Half of teens who have seen pictures of kids drunk, passed out, or using drugs on Facebook and other social networking sites first saw such pictures when they were 13 years of age or younger; more than 90 percent first saw such pictures when they were 15 or younger.

Compared to teens that have never seen pictures of kids getting drunk, passed out, or using drugs on social networking sites, teens that have seen these images are:

  • •Three times likelier to use alcohol;
  • •Four times likelier to use marijuana;
  • •Four times likelier to be able to get marijuana, almost three times likelier to be able to get controlled prescription drugs without a prescription, and more than twice as likely to be able to get alcohol in a day or less; and
  • •Much likelier to have friends and classmates who abuse illegal and prescription drugs.

Teens Viewing Suggestive Teen Programming at Increased Substance Abuse Risk
This year’s survey explored teen TV viewing habits in relation to teen substance abuse. One-third of teens (32 percent) watch teen reality shows like Jersey ShoreTeen Mom, or 16 and Pregnant or teen dramas like Skins or Gossip Girl in a typical week.

Compared to teens that do not watch suggestive teen programming, teens that typically watch one or more such programs per week are:

  • •Twice as likely to use tobacco;
  • •Almost twice as likely to use alcohol;
  • •More than one-and-a-half times likelier to use marijuana;
  • •Twice as likely to be able to get marijuana within a day or less; and
  • •More than one-and-a-half times likelier to be able to get prescription drugs without a prescription within a day or less.

“The relationship of social networking site images of kids drunk, passed out, or using drugs and of suggestive teen programming to increased teen risk of substance abuse offers grotesque confirmation of the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words,” said Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA Columbia’s Founder and Chairman and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. “The time has come for those who operate and profit from social networking sites like Facebook to deploy their technological expertise to curb such images and to deny use of their sites to children and teens who post pictures of themselves and their friends drunk, passed out or using drugs. Continuing to provide the electronic vehicle for transmitting such images constitutes electronic child abuse.”

Parental Perceptions Out of Touch with Reality
Eighty-seven percent of parents said they think spending time on social networking sites does not make it more likely their child will drink alcohol; 89 percent of parents felt it would not make their child more likely to use drugs.

Cyber Bullying and Substance Abuse 
The CASA Columbia survey also found that 19 percent of teens ages 12-17 (more than 4.5 million teens) report being cyber bullied (having someone post mean or embarrassing things about them on a social networking site). Compared to teens who are not cyber bullied, teens who have been cyber bullied are more than twice as likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana.

“The anything goes, free-for-all world of Internet expression and suggestive television programming that teens are exposed to on a daily basis puts them at increased risk of substance abuse,” said Califano. “The findings in this year’s survey should strike Facebook fear into the hearts of parents of young children and drive home the need for parents to give their children the will and skill to keep their heads above the water of the corrupting cultural currents their children must navigate.”

Other Key Findings Related to Teen Substance Abuse
Teens whose parents don’t agree completely with each other on what to say to their teen about drug use are more than three times likelier to use marijuana, and three-and-a-half times likelier to expect to try drugs in the future, than teens whose parents agree completely on what to say about drug use.

  • •Teens whose parents do not agree completely with each other on what to say to their teen about drinking alcohol are twice as likely to use alcohol, than teens whose parents agree completely on what to say about drinking.
  • •Teens who agreed with any of the following statements − “If a friend of mine uses illegal drugs, it’s none of my business,” “I should be able to do what I want with my own body,” or “It’s not a big deal to have sex with someone you don’t care that much about” − are three times likelier to use marijuana, twice as likely to drink alcohol, and much more likely to smoke cigarettes, compared to teens who disagreed with the statements.
  • •For the fifth straight year, more than 60 percent of high school students say they attend schools where drugs are used, kept or sold on school grounds.
  • •Forty-two percent of 12- to 17-year olds report knowing at least one friend or classmate who uses illegal drugs, like acid, ecstasy, methamphetamine, cocaine or heroin, a 24 percent increase since 2007.

CASA Columbia’s back-to-school survey was conducted using two concurrent surveys. CASA Columbia used Knowledge Networks to do an Internet-based survey administered to a nationally representative sample of 1,037 teens (546 boys, 491 girls), and 528 of their parents, from March 27 to April 27, 2011. Sampling error is +/- 3.1 for teens and +/- 4.4 for parents. As in the past, CASA Columbia used QEV Analytics to do a survey of trend questions at home by telephone that was administered to a nationally representative sample of 1,006 teens (478 boys, 528 girls) from March 29 to May 9, 2011. Sampling error is +/- 3.1.

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New Studies show that Parents don’t Properly Protect Children from Cyber-Bullying

AscentiveSafe Internet Use Tips from the Ascentive team

With about half of young people experiencing some form of cyberbullying or other harassment online, a majority of parents with children under 18 say they are concerned about their children’s social networking activities and want to find ways to protect them. Most parents also admit, however, that they do not have the tools, knowledge or time to properly monitor their children on social networks—and many admit that they take no precautions at all. That’s according to two new studies released today by an online monitoring service.

According to the studies, over 69% of parents with children ages 10 – 17 say they are concerned about their children visiting social networking sites, with their biggest fears being, in order, contact from strangers, information being displayed online that shares their child’s physical location, postings that could tarnish their child’s reputation, and their child getting cyberbullied.

However, the data also shows that most parents do not take the proper precautions to ensure their child’s safety when visiting social networks. For example, even though 68% of parents believe that daily monitoring is a must because news on social networks spreads fast and needs to be resolved quickly, only 32% of parents say they actually monitor their child’s social networking activities every day, and 28% of parents admit they only occasionally, rarely or never monitor their child’s social networking activities.

Meanwhile, 66% of parents believe they should monitor all of their child’s Facebook activity including emails and chats, yet the most common monitoring technique stated—”friending” their child—does not allow the parent to monitor email, chats or many other activities where dangers could lurk. Even if a parent were to “friend” their child, it would be practically impossible and extremely time-consuming to monitor what all of their child’s friends are doing, especially since the average teenager has more than 200 friends on social networks. Many parents don’t realize that the greatest danger posed to their child on social networks isn’t what their child does, but what others do to or say about their child.

“Almost all parents agree that they have a responsibility to look out for their kid’s safety and well-being while they’re on social networks, but there is a serious gap between what most parents believe is sufficient monitoring and what they are actually doing, which in most cases is far from sufficient,” said George Garrick, chief executive officer of SocialShield. “Our goal is to evaluate every friend request, every comment, every photo and all other activities regarding our customer’s children—including by all their friends—so that we can alert the parents if there’s anything suspicious. It’s ironic that so many parents insure their cellphones or protect their computers with anti-virus software, yet fail to properly protect their children from potential threats that can be both physical and psychological.”

Unfortunately, suicides by teens who have been cyberbullied on social networks are a fact of life today, as are incidents of predators stalking and contacting young teen girls, with such contact often leading to tragic outcomes. About half of young people have experienced at least some form of cyberbullying, and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center, which also found that cyberbullying victims are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to youth who had experienced no cyberbullying.

Since using a social network essentially requires the use of your real name and identity, many people (younger, more vulnerable teens in particular) often post excessive amounts of personal data including their daily habits and locations, not realizing they are leaving a real-life trail of who they are, what they do, and where they can be found.

Other findings from the report include:

  • 62% of parents feel that occasionally looking over their child’s shoulder while he/she sits at the computer in the family room is enough to monitor his/her activities effectively, even though 71% admit their child also accesses social networks from other places, such as at a friend’s house or the library.
  • 50% of parents admitted that “properly monitoring would take a lot of time and I’m sure there are things I’m not seeing”
  • 63% of parents say they frequently review who their child is friending on social  networks to make sure it is only people that he/she knows in real life (although it’s impossible for any parent to really know who a particular “friend” is)
  •  54% of parents say they monitor their child’s social networking account by logging into his/her account as him/her on occasion; only 5% say they are currently using a monitoring application that alerts them if there is something they should be aware of.

Steve DeWarns, a San Francisco Bay Area police officer said: “Whenever I’m speaking to parent organizations, I always tell them that you don’t know what you don’t know, and this data proves that while parents want to protect their kids on social networks, they don’t necessarily have time or even know the most effective way.  And at the most basic level, a large proportion of parents really don’t understand what social networks are and how they work, thus where the risks lie.”

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Demi Lovato and Seventeen Team Up to fight Cyber Bullying

Internet safety tips from the Ascentive team

Along with stars from ABC Family, Demi Lovato, has team up to put an end to bullies on and off the internet. Lovato is one of many stars who have faced cyber-bullies online and hopes to put a stop to it.

As a contributing editor for Seventeen Lovato has opened up about her struggle with being a victim of bullying in the past. “I was bullied when I was younger, it got so bad that I ended up leaving school because of it and the effects of that traumatizing time are still with me to this day,” she revealed in her recent article.

Stars such as Shailene Woodley (Amy Juergens from The Secret Life of the American Teenager) andTyler Blackburn(Caleb Rivers from Pretty Little Liars) have also joined their fellow ABC Family costars to promote the fight against bullying.

“All it takes is to speak up, to say something. All it takes is to find that strength within yourself, to be the one to say something, to tell someone about it, to tell a teacher, tell a parent, to tell another peer—somebody—what’s going on,” said Shailene Woodley.

Tyler said, “I think that the social media aspect of bullying is different because it spreads like wildfire immediately. So in that way, I think it’s almost more intense. But it’s just as hurtful as bullying someone face-to-face,” said Tyler Blackburn.

“I think that some people use bullying as a way to fit in, and I’ve noticed it’s not just the “cool” kids doing it anymore. Sitting behind a computer gives people a sense of anonymity, but everyone needs to realize that words—even the ones they write online—have a strong power to hurt people” said Demi Lovato.

ABC Family also recently premiered the two-hour ABC Family original movie, “Cyberbully,” starring Emily Osment (“Hannah Montana”), Kelly Rowan (“The OC”) and Kay Panabaker (“No Ordinary Family”), presented as part of the Delete Digital Drama Initiative. The initiative, will launch this summer both on the network and in the magazine’s August 2011 issue.

“Cyberbully” follows Taylor Hillridge (Osment), a teenage girl who falls victim to online bullying, and the cost it takes on her as well as her friends and family. Taylor is a pretty 17-year-old student dealing with her parents’ recent divorce and painfully aware of her lower social status in high school. When her mom gives her a computer for her birthday, Taylor is excited by the prospect of going online to meet new friends without her mother always looking over her shoulder. However Taylor soon finds herself the victim of betrayal and bullying while visiting a popular social website. Obsessed with the damaging posts, she begins to withdraw from her family and friends, including her life-long best friend, Samantha Caldone (Panabaker). Tormented and afraid to face her peers at school, Taylor is pushed to a breaking point. It is only after this life-changing event that Taylor learns that she is not alone – meeting other teens, including a classmate, who have had similar experiences. Taylor’s mom, Kris (Rowan), reels from the incident and takes on the school system and state legislation to help prevent others from going through the same harrowing ordeal.

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