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Keywords:

  • Internet;
  • bully;
  • adolescence;
  • computers;
  • depression;
  • child development

Background:  While most youth report positive experiences and activities online, little is known about experiences of Internet victimization and associated correlates of youth, specifically in regards to Internet harassment.

Methods:  The Youth Internet Safety Survey is a cross-sectional, nationally representative telephone survey of young regular Internet users in the United States. Interviews were conducted between the fall of 1999 and the spring of 2000 and examined characteristics of Internet harassment, unwanted exposure to sexual material, and sexual solicitation that had occurred on the Internet in the previous year. One thousand, five hundred and one regular Internet users between the ages of 10 and 17 years were interviewed, along with one parent or guardian. To assess the characteristics surrounding Internet harassment, four groups of youth were compared: 1) targets of aggression (having been threatened or embarrassed by someone; or feeling worried or threatened by someone's actions); 2) online aggressors (making rude or nasty comments; or harassing or embarrassing someone with whom the youth was mad at); 3) aggressor/targets (youth who report both being an aggressor as well as a target of Internet harassment); and 4) non-harassment involved youth (being neither a target nor an aggressor online).

Results:  Of the 19% of young regular Internet users involved in online aggression, 3% were aggressor/targets, 4% reported being targets only, and 12% reported being online aggressors only. Youth aggressor/targets reported characteristics similar to conventional bully/victim youth, including many commonalities with aggressor-only youth, and significant psychosocial challenge.

Conclusions:  Youth aggressor/targets are intense users of the Internet who view themselves as capable web users. Beyond this, however, these youth report significant psychosocial challenge, including depressive symptomatology, problem behavior, and targeting of traditional bullying. Implications for intervention are discussed.