temporarily removing bluemonster from all pages

Archive

Category Archives for "Features"

US Census Guide: How to Get the Most Out of Census.gov

If you ever visited Census.gov before it was updated you’d have found the process of sifting through the plentiful information about America’s economy, places, and people incredibly time-consuming and difficult. Thankfully, the website has been updated, which has made it slightly easier to navigate. However, with so much information available, it’s still easy to miss key features or you may struggle to pinpoint the data you’re looking for.

Therefore, to help get you started and to make sure you’re getting the most out of Census.gov, we’ve put together this handy guide which will show you how to navigate the site and get the results you’re looking for.

Using the Navigation Bar

At the top of the site, you’ll see a navigation bar which contains the links, “Topics,” “Geography,” “Library,” “Data,” “Surveys/Programs,” “Newsrooms,” and “About Us.” So, let’s take a look at each of these to see what you’ll find in each section.

Using the Topics Feature on Census.gov

When you click on the “Topics” tab at the top of the homepage, this presents you with a drop-down bar with a number of further options. These contain the economic and demographic content within certain areas of interest, including population, education, income and poverty, and health.

Clicking on one of these will provide you with a further breakdown of the statistics that are available for this area. For example, if you click on ‘Health,’ this presents you with several more options, including Disability, Expenses and Investments, Fertility, Health Care Industries, Health Insurance, HIV/AIDS, Small Area Health Insurance Estimates (SAHIE), and Social Assistance Industries. As you click into each of these categories you’ll be taken to a new page that’s dedicated entirely to this area. At the top of the page, you’ll see an overview of what the statistics include along with any new releases that are available.

When you’ve found your chosen area and have clicked on it, you can go into much more detail using the additional tabs and sections within each sub-category. For example, on the Disability page, you’ll find information about the data that’s collected, how it’s collected, and what publications have been released. For further information on the specific area, there are also links to related sites or you can contact the team for more information.

Alternatively, if you just want an overview of one of the main categories (e.g. Health) and don’t want to go into a specific sub-category, you can enter the main page by clicking on “[CATEGORY NAME] main” in the white box that’s on the left-hand side of the drop-down within each section. This provides you with a general overview of the data that’s been collected, any news stories, recent publications, new surveys/programs, working papers, and so on.

Using the Geography Feature on Census.gov

Clicking on the “Geography” tab opens up some more possibilities for your data search. Here you’ll find access to an overview of the geography section of the website, “Geography Main.” Or you can refine your search by clicking on the various features available.

This includes cool interactive maps that display things like populations; education tools like blogs and brochures; metropolitan and micropolitan information; and further details on the Geographic Support System Initiative (GSS-I).

Using the Library Feature on Census.gov

For photos, videos, and audio tools, you’ll need to click on the “Library” tab. Here you’ll find access to all the available publications, infographics, and audio/visual tools available.

For example, if you click into the infographics section you’ll be able to see the latest ones that have been published. Codes for each of these are available so you can embed these into your own website to provide a cool graphic for your visitors.

All of the multimedia available within this section is sorted by their date of release.

Using the Data Feature on Census.gov

Under the “Data” tab you’ll find some great tools that help you find the data you’re looking for. (We’ll delve into the QuickFacts section of the site in more detail below.)

Within this section, you will find more sub-categories that allow you to explore different areas of the site. Helpful tools (like the QuickFacts feature) are located under the tab “Data Tools & Apps,” but you’ll also find a section that’s dedicated to developers.

The developers’ section of Census.gov has been designed to help provide greater access to the stats and data the website’s got available. Therefore, within this section developers can use the application programming interface (API) to reach new users and create custom apps by incorporating the stats found on the website into their own designs. For example, a developer may use the stats to show what commuting patterns there are in a particular American city, or they may show how many homeowners there are within a certain neighborhood.

However, if you’re not a developer, you can gain instant access to some of the apps that are already available. Contained in the “Mobile Apps” section you’ll find a number of free apps that help you process the information that’s available on the site. Or, if you fancy putting your knowledge to the test, you might like to download the Census PoP Quiz!

Furthermore, in the “Software” sub-category you’ll also find some free software that allows you to process, map, extract, display, and/or create tables from the survey and census data.

There’s also a “Product Catalogs” section where you’ll find information that’s been separated into key subject categories (e.g. Business and Industry, Geography, and Housing). Within these sections, you’ll find publications in print, CDs, DVDs, certification services, and reference files and maps.

Finally, for information on combining data and where you can get more training or attend workshops, you’ll need to be in the “Training & Workshops” section.

You can also access to the visual tools through this Data section, too.

Using the Surveys/Programs Feature on Census.gov

To gain instant access to the surveys and programs that have been run throughout the U.S., click on the tab for “Surveys/Programs”. Through the drop-down menu, you can access all of the surveys available, which include the 2010 and 2020 Census, the American Housing Survey (AHS), the Economic Census, and so on.

Clicking on the relevant one will take you straight to the relevant survey while also providing you with more information on the survey. For example, in the 2020 Census section, you’ll find details on things like research and testing, the latest news, and a monthly status report.

If you’re not sure what survey or program you want, you can click on the tab that shows “All Surveys & Programs.” Displayed in alphabetical order, there are over one hundred different ones available for you to choose from.

And, finally, if you ever want some more details on a survey you’ve been asked to take part in you can learn more about this in the “Are you in a Survey?” section.

Using the Newsroom and About Us Sections on Census.gov

The final two tabs on the website are pretty self-explanatory. Within the newsroom section, you’ll find the latest releases and blog/social media posts. You can also get facts for your features, stats for your stories, and press kits here. And if you want to know more about Census.gov, how it operates, who’s behind it, and what their research involves, head to “About Us.”

Getting the Most Out of Census.gov QuickFacts

The QuickFacts tool provided by Census.gov is incredibly useful if you want to refine the data on offer. To access the tool you can either click through from the homepage or go to the “Data” tab before clicking on “Data Tools & Apps” and “QuickFacts.”

Once the QuickFacts screen has loaded up you’ll see a search box where you can enter the state, county, city, town, or zip code – and a drop-down box that allows you to select a fact.

The facts include various factors within several sections:

  • Population
  • Age and Sex
  • Race and Hispanic Origin
  • Population Characteristics
  • Housing
  • Family and Living Arrangements
  • Education
  • Health
  • Economy
  • Transportation
  • Income & Poverty
  • Business
  • Geography

To access the data, simply enter the area you want to look in. The search bar at the top does also give you the option to choose the factor you want to filter by. For example, you may want to look at Oklahoma to see how many people are living in each household. To do this, you’ll type in “Oklahoma” in the search bar before selecting “persons per household” under the “Family and Living Arrangements” section. However, unfortunately, the tool doesn’t filter out all of the other information when you do this, so you’ll still see all the other data among the data you’ve asked for.

Therefore, to get the information you’re looking for your best off entering the area in the search bar, letting the graph load and selecting the section that’s relevant to you from the drop-down menu that’s located at the top of the table. This automatically shows “All Topics” but if you click on it, it’ll display the sections detailed in the bullet points listed above. So, for the previous example we’ve given, we’d select “Family and Living Arrangements” before narrowing down our search to see how many people were living in each household.

You’ll also notice that when your table’s generated, it will show the “United States” and your chosen area, e.g. Oklahoma. This allows you to compare the stats for both, or, if you want to focus solely on the area you’ve chosen, you can click the X above ‘United States’ to get rid of this.

Once you’ve created this table you can then add other areas to it to start comparing. All you need to do is type in the new area in the search box. For example, we might compare the number of people in a household in Oklahoma with the figures for Tennessee. After we’ve typed “Tennessee” into the search bar this will be added to the table next to Oklahoma so we can compare the two. And if you want to get rid of one of your search results, all you need to do is hit the X above the area name.

Because QuickFacts continues to add new areas to the table when you type them in the search bar, you will need to clear your existing table if you want to start a fresh comparison. To do this, just click on the “Clear” icon on the toolbar.

Using the Other Features of QuickFacts

You’ll also notice that, on this toolbar, there are a number of other icons, and these are designed to create interactive features for your searches. For example, after you’ve selected the area you’re looking at, you can click on “Map” to load a full map of the United States. It will highlight the area you’ve selected in red while also showing you all the other states. By hovering over the states you can see the total populations within each. Or, if you select a particular fact from the drop-down menu, it’ll display the total number of people within each area according to the fact you’ve selected.

The chart icon also provides you with another way of comparing your newfound stats with other states in the U.S. To use, just click on the icon after you’ve input the area and fact you want to search by.

And now comes the clever part! The “Dashboard” icon draws all three of the above features into one manageable place, so you can see the table, map, and chart at once. This offers a much more visual experience that you can continue to change and refine according to the topics you’re selecting.

If you do get confused as to what topic you’ve chosen, this is always displayed above the feature you’re using.

Finally, when you’ve found the data you want, you can start to use it by clicking on the “More” button at the end of the QuickFacts toolbar. Here you can choose to print your results, import them into a CSV file (for use with Excel spreadsheets, for example), email them to someone, get an embedded link for your website, or share them on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Although the QuickFacts feature can be a little frustrating to use to start with, by playing around with it for a few minutes you should grasp the concept of it. And once you do, the information that’s available and the features you can use are incredibly useful.

Other Useful Features on Census.gov

U.S. and World Population Clock

To see how rapidly the world’s or America’s population is expanding, the interactive Population Clock is well worth a visit. With a clock counting the population as it grows and some other timers for births, deaths, and migrations, this is a great visual tool.

Here you’ll also find out how the population is changing, being able to see how frequently a new baby’s being born, how often there’s a death, and how the population is growing by region. You can also view the population density by age and sex, viewing how it’s changed over the years.

Additionally, you can find out how large the population of America was on a certain date by entering it into the calendar. This is also available to download and share.

American FactFinder

This tool on Census.gov lets you explore popular facts about your community, while also showing you the data that’s being frequently requested about this area. To find out more all you need to do is put your state, county, city, town, or zip code in the search bar and click “Go.”

Once you’ve done this it’ll take you to a page which shows you the total population and popular tables for this area. On the left-hand side, you’ll also see a number of categories, including age, education, and housing. Clicking on one of these will bring up the relevant data for this category while, again, showing you the popular tables for this section.

However, if you want to refine your search you may find the “Guided Search” option, which is available on the main page of the American FactFinder, helpful. Here you choose from a number of options, including what information you’re looking for, the topics you’re interested in, the location you want, and whether you want to refine your data to a race or ethnic group.

Once you’ve done this you’ll be presented with a list of tables and documents that are relevant to your requirements. This is a much easier way to refine your search!

There’s also an “Advanced Search” option that allows you to search by topics, geographies, race and ethnic groups, industry codes, and EEO occupation codes. You can also search by topic or table name or the area you’re interested in.

Frequently Asked Questions

Within this section, you’ll see what questions people are asking, with popular FAQs displayed on the main page. You can refine the results by topics or find what you’re looking for straight away, just type your question in the search box.

There’s some great information available that will help shed light on your research, the data available, and what goes into the surveys. You can also dip into the glossary for help with any unknown terms.

Conclusion

As you can see there’s plenty on offer at Census.gov, whether you’re looking for the latest mobile apps or you need to produce a table of facts for a new assignment. And, although the plethora of information can seem quite intimidating at first, the above explanation of how to access all of the key areas should hopefully help you find what you’re looking for!

INFOGRAPHIC: The Lies We Tell on Resumes

resume lies

EMBED THIS INFOGRAPHIC ON YOUR SITE

Want to share this image on your site? Just copy and paste the embed code below:

Did Jimmy Kimmel Steal our Map?

We’ve been huge fans of Jimmy Kimmel since the days of “The Man Show” and “Win Ben Stein’s Money”.  So we were a bit shocked when we saw the 3 minute bit Jimmy ran:

 

Notice that map? That’s our map:

map2

 

Hey Jimmy – What Happened to our Logo?

This isn’t the first time Jimmy has been accused of stealing jokes. Last month, Jimmy allegedly stole a whole bunch of jokes from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the Oscars. Judah Friedlander also accused Kimmel of stealing a joke.

So I guess we’re not surprised – just saddened. Jimmy literally took the extra effort and completely got rid of our logo or any mention of us.

Since this isn’t the first, second, or even third time, we made a little rap sheet for Jimmy.

Check it out:

 

unnamed

 

We’re not like Jimmy either – that beautiful, royalty free image was taken by Romina Espinosa. Romina, whoever and wherever you are, we’d love to hear the story behind that picture!

Finally – Jimmy and team: Our lawyer says we have a pretty good case. We’re still thinking about it. But we’ll let bygones be bygones if you and Guillermo  sing I’m Sorry, So Sorry  to the BackgroundChecks.org team. No need to ask us – just go ahead, do it, and upload to your YouTube channel.

 

 

 

Which States have the Worst DUI Problems?

Spring is in the air. That means parties, barbecues, and of course, a lot more beer and drinking. While there’s nothing wrong with drinking, Drinking and Driving is still a major problem across the United States. We set out to see how bad it really is. Check out the map, then scroll below for our data!
map2
Concerned about safety issues in your community? Check out our home security resources for more information.

DUIs are going up in America. Over 10,000 people were killed  and more then 200,000 were inured in 2015  alone as a direct result of someone driving under the influence. We set out to figure out how bad drunk driving is in America, and the results are bad. To create a ranking of states, we took a combination of deaths directly attributable to DUIs, DUI arrests per 100,000 people, and drinking too much before driving, as reported by drivers themselves.  We then created a weighted formula. The results are below – let us know how your state did and what you think in the comments!

(Our data came from the CDC, and MADD, which aggregates state data).

The States with the Worst DUI Problems

Ranking, Worst to BestStateNo. of fatalitiesRate (of all total traffic deaths)Increase/Decrease from last yearDUI death rate (per 100,000)DUI arrestsDUI Arrest Rate (per 100,000)Percentage of Adults Who Reported Drinking Too Much Before Driving, 2014
1Wyoming560.38%16.7% increase9.563,1575391.4
2North Dakota500.38%9.1% decrease6.606,3518383.4
3South Dakota430.33%2.3% decrease4.977,3058442.2
4Montana750.34%2.7% increase7.193,6743522.4
5South Carolina3010.31%9.1% decrease6.0716,2723281.6
6Mississippi1750.26%1.7% increase5.866,8892301.6
7New Mexico980.33%16.2% decrease4.718,5424101.1
8Kentucky1920.25%12.3% increase4.3317,8254021.4
9Maine520.33%40.5% increase3.915,7564321.7
10Arkansas1490.28%9.6% increase4.996,9192321.4
11Idaho700.32%32.1% increase4.165,8443471.6
12Texas13230.38%8.5% decrease4.7564,9712331.8
13Louisiana2450.34%8% decrease5.235,3391142.2
14Wisconsin1890.33%14.5% increase3.2724,5884252.2
15North Carolina4110.30%13.2% increase4.0535,9673541.2
16Alabama2470.29%6.8% decrease5.087,8631621.3
17Arizona2720.31%36% increase3.9222,3673231.6
18Oklahoma1700.27%9% increase4.3311,1012830.9
19Tennessee2520.26%7.7% decrease3.7923,1503481.1
20Alaska230.36%4.5% increase3.103,1634261.6
21Colorado1510.28%5.6% decrease2.7325,5624611.9
22Missouri2240.26%9.3% increase3.6819,4493191.3
23Nebraska650.26%8.3% increase3.415,3482802.5
24Oregon1550.35%56.5% increase3.799,0192201.6
25Nevada970.30%4.3% increase3.307,6122592.2
26Pennsylvania3640.30%4.3% increase2.8544,6153491.8
27West Virginia710.27%15.5% decrease3.884,5432480.5
28Florida7970.27%14.8% increase3.8731,7831541.7
29Hawaii330.35%10% increase2.315,2503682.1
30Iowa780.24%14.3% decrease2.499,0282882.8
31Ohio3130.28%3.6% increase2.6934,2542952
32California9140.29%4.3% increase2.33141,4583601.9
33Delaware410.33%21.2% decrease4.31386411.7
34Michigan2670.28%25.9% increase2.6926,8452702.2
35Vermont150.27%87.5% increase2.402,1443431.8
36New Hampshire330.29%13.8% increase2.474,7463561.3
37Minnesota1150.28%6.5% increase2.0820,8303771.9
38Maryland1590.31%22.3% increase2.6417,1002841.8
39Connecticut1030.39%6.2% increase2.888,1482281.9
40Georgia3660.26%31.2% increase3.5519,2171860.7
41Kansas840.24%22.2% decrease2.897,1862471.4
42Washington1480.26%12.1% increase2.0324,6273381.9
43Indiana1780.22%11.3% increase2.6814,4282181.6
44Virginia2080.28%3.7% decrease2.4720,4772431.5
45Rhode Island190.43%11.8% increase1.802,5912452.5
46Utah430.16%24.6% decrease1.418,8132890.8
47New Jersey1110.20%31.1% decrease1.2422,2012481.4
48Illinois3070.31%1.7% increase2.403,659291.8
49Massachusetts960.31%32.9% decrease1.418,2581212
50New York3110.28%0.3% decrease1.5828,9881471

 

 

 

These are the Most Sexually Diseased States in the U.S.

Updated: October 5, 2017

Since we first looked at the data, the CDC has published new findings, with new data from 2016 available. It’s only gotten worse, but state rankings have changed. Read on.

stdHeatMap_

With the popularity of hookup apps like Tinder and Grindr, finding casual sex partners has never been easier, but the increasing convenience of enjoying one-nighters has come with a cost: STD rates are surging in the U.S. like never before. Check out the full details and study below.

In alarming news for sexually active singles, CDC reports found that STD rates rose again in 2016, reaching an all-time high by topping 2015 figures, which previously stood as the worst year for STDs in the U.S. The problem is so bad that many experts are labeling the surge in STD rates a national epidemic.

In order to keep you informed about which areas pose the greatest risk, we compiled a nationwide ranking of states by the frequency of STD infection. This report was created by taking local county and state health data, social media surveys, and CDC data on the rate of incidents per 100k residents for the two most common STDs, gonorrhea and chlamydia, and calculating a weighted average between the two. The results may surprise you.

Compared to our earlier 2016 rankings, perhaps the biggest story from the 2016 CDC data is the increase in reported gonorrhea cases. The top ten worst states all experienced a rise in the rate of gonorrhea per 100k residents. In Alaska (#1), Mississippi (#2) and Georgia (#4), the rate rose by more than 40 per 100k, enough for Alaska to maintain its status as the worst state in U.S. for STDs, and for the latter two states to move up several positions in the rankings. The across-the-board increase in gonorrhea infection is startling, and many experts attribute it to the rising prevalence of antibiotic-resistant strains of the disease.

Chlamydia rates also rose in most states, and remains the most common STD in the nation, which is often attributed to the fact that most people infected do not experience symptoms.

Some states were hit hard in 2016: Delaware’s (#9) rate of chlamydia infection increased by over 60 per 100k, enough to bring it into the top ten. Mississippi’s infection rate jumped by a whopping 91.9 per 100k, pushing it up to #2 overall.

Other states fared better, including North Carolina (#7), Louisiana (#2) and New Mexico (#5) which all experienced a decrease in chlamydia infections per 100k.

The state moving up the highest in the rankings is Maryland, jumping up six spots from #24 to #18, owing to significantly elevated rates of both gonorrhea and chlamydia. Next is Delaware, climbing five spots from #14 to #9. There is a four-way tie between Georgia (#4), Indiana (#23), Virginia (#25) and North Dakota (#26) for third greatest increase as they all moved up three places in the rankings.

Hawaii experienced the greatest drop in the rankings, falling eight spots from #20 to #28 due to a decrease in the chlamydia rate per 100k residents. Three states — Texas (#16), Tennessee (#22), and Michigan (#27) — fell four spots each, while three others–North Carolina (#6), Colorado  (#30), Vermont (#50) — went down three spots.

Significantly, thirty states either maintained their previous position or only moved one place in the overall rankings.

The Most Sexually Diseased States

RankingStateChlamydia rate per 100,000Gonorrhea rate per 100,000Weighted Disease ScoreFebruary 2016 RankingChange in Ranking
1Alaska771.6196.9484.310
2Mississippi672.1239.2455.742
3Louisiana679.3230.8455.12-1
4Georgia614.6201.2407.973
5New Mexico628.6168.6398.650
6North Carolina577.6196386.83-3
7South Carolina575.5187.8381.76-1
8Arkansas562192.5377.391
9Delaware567.2179.9373.6145
10Oklahoma548.4193.6371.08-2
11Alabama553.6173363.310-1
12Illinois561.4164.8363.111-1
13New York552.8146.5349.7130
14Ohio520.9176.4348.7151
15Missouri507188.7347.9172
16Texas520.4154.6337.512-4
17California506.2164.9335.616-1
18Maryland510.4158.5334.5246
19Arizona511.5151.3331.4190
20Nevada506.7151.5329.1222
21South Dakota504.5147.8326.2210
22Tennesee489.4154.2321.818-4
23Indiana466142.8304.4263
24Florida467.4138.9303.2251
25Virginia473.2132.2302.7283
26North Dakota456.5132.1294.3293
27Michigan462.9125.5294.223-4
28Hawaii482.1102.5292.320-8
29Wisconsin466112.6289.3312
30Colorado468.6109.5289.127-3
31Pennsylvania444.7114.1279.430-1
32Washington435.9114275.0331
33Nebraska432.3113.7273.032-1
34Kentucky413.2131.3272.3351
35Oregon432.5108270.3361
36Rhode Island467.367.8267.634-2
37Kansas417.6115.2266.4381
38Montana427.583.9255.737-1
39Minnesota413.293253.1390
40Iowa415.683.2249.4400
41New Jersey385.391.1238.2410
42Massachusetts394.573.3233.9431
43Connecticut387.476.1231.842-1
44Wyoming351.546.9199.2440
45Idaho356.338.4197.4450
46Utah315.770.1192.9460
47Maine312.633.9173.3481
48West Virginia261.449.8155.6491
49New Hampshire260.634.3147.5501
50Vermont269.920.1145.047-3

How to Survive Identity Theft and Fraud Online

125016_IdentityTheft_op1_092017

If you’ve never been a victim of identity theft, consider yourself lucky. Millions of people have had to fight their way out of serious financial trouble because of one wrong person getting hold of their personal information.

Identity theft is possibly the worst cybercrime of all, one that can easily destroy a lifetime’s worth of reputation, finances, and credit history, which can take years to recover from.

A 2017 study by Javelin Strategy & Research found that about 15.4 million consumers in the U.S are victims of identity theft in one form or another, with an estimated total of $16 billion stolen – and the numbers keep rising each year.

If you’ve fallen victim to identity theft, this resource is your survival guide on how to gain back control, steps to recover from fraud and identity theft, as well as many useful tips and helpful information to protect yourself from being a victim of cybercrime in the future.

Identity Theft: The Facts

  • Statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics states that about 7% of people over the age of 16 were victims of identity theft. That may not seem like a lot, but when you take into account that there were 242 million people over 18 in the US in 2014, that would mean over 17 million people were taken advantage of.
  • The bureau also reports that 14%, or 2.5 million, suffered financial loss from identity theft.
  • Women are more likely to have their identity stolen than men, at 9.2 million women compared to 8.3 million men.
  • When dividing by race groups, Caucasians have a rate of 8%, African Americans are about 5% – as are Hispanics. Incomes of $75,000 or more annually were targeted most, at theft rate of 11%.
  • 52% of victims reported they were able to resolve the issues in a day or less, but 9% spent more than a month working on fixing the damage done. 29% of victims that spent more than 6 months resolving problems due to identity theft reported severe emotional distress.
  • Surprisingly, children are 51x more likely to have their identity stolen than adults would be. They are vulnerable to someone who might try to manipulate them because they don’t realize the risk. The vast majority of child identities stolen are used to open credit accounts and to substantiate loans, often by family members or relatives. Parents usually warn children about sexual predators and being modest on social media, but what they don’t usually think about is people who might pray on their naivety online and get them to give up pertinent information that would compromise their identity security.

Statistics Around The World

  • According to NASDAQ, “Data breaches totaled 1,540 worldwide in 2014 – up 46 percent from the year before – and led to the compromise of more than one billion data records.”
  • 55% of breach incidents are from a malicious outsider who was intentionally trying to get in and steal information. 25% came from accidental loss and 15% came from a malicious insider.
  • The most hacked area was North America, accounting for 76% of the known breaches around the world. 72% occurred in the United States alone. The United Kingdom accounts for 8% of the breaches, Canada carries 4%, Australia accounts for 2%, and Israel and China both carry 1% of the burden.
  • As for credit card fraud, the United States only carries about 24% of the credit cards in the world, yet 47% of credit card fraud. Countries that have adopted the EMV or “chip” card have shown significantly lower occurrences of fraud. The United States’ slow adoption of the technology is suspected to be the reason their rate of fraud is much higher.

Identity Theft

Different Types of Identity Theft

Before delving deeper into understanding identity theft, let us first look into some of the common terminology used in reference to these crimes:

Phishing 

Misleading emails that manipulate people to enter confidential information. This could be someone pretending to be a bank representative, a health service or medical assistant, or even a credit card company.

Perhaps the most notorious incidence of phishing in recent memory was the 2016 hacking of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman John Podesta’s e-mail account by Russian hackers. The email in question asked for Podesta’s account password, and was in fact spotted by an aide and marked as suspicious, however in the aide’s memo he made an unfortunate typo, writing that the email was “legitimate” rather than “illegitimate”. This costly error resulted in Russians gaining access to tens of thousands of emails which were the then handed over to the organization Wikileaks, who released the emails in calculated intervals over the course of the campaign, causing a public uproar and potentially costing Clinton the election.

Smishing

The same concept as phishing, but done through SMS or text messaging. This type of scam has grown more and more prevalent in recent years as criminals directly target people’s’ principal means of accessing the internet and email. A person may receive a text message requesting private information like a bank PIN number or email account password.  

Another common scam is a text tailored to resemble a personal message with a request to view the presumed sender’s social media account. Clicking the link will result in the user being directed to a hazardous URL where his or her information may be compromised. The results of smishing can be just as devastating as any other identity theft, as in this 2016 scam when three Santander customers lost a combined £36,200 ($46,772) within a month, money that the bank declined to refund.   

Wardriving

When someone hacks into a wireless network and installs spyware. This allows them to see what IP addresses are being used and what each device is doing, including personal information, usernames, passwords, and much more.

Surprisingly,  wardriving itself is not illegal in the United States, depending on the techniques used for one to gain access to a network. There is an active debate within the internet community over the ethics of the practice.

Keylogging

Software installed either by a hacker or virus that logs every keystroke done on a computer. This key logging software reports each keystroke to the person who planted the software and can easily be deconstructed to provide them your usernames, passwords, social security information, and any other personal data they find interesting. Keylogger malware is not very complex, yet it does not have to be in order to be effective.

In 2016, cyber criminals using the keylogger program Olympic Vision were able to hack into the computers of employees of companies spanning 18 different countries in Asia, the United States and the Middle East. With a technique similar to a phishing scam, the criminals sent emails posing as business partners requesting pertinent information, yet with the malware attached. Once the malicious software was installed, it used keystroke analysis obtain all types of confidential information and login passwords.

Skimming 

Devices designed to be placed over ATM and gas pump card slots that still allow the card to work, but also store the credit card information. When the person who placed it retrieves the device, the information of every credit card used during the time it was installed is then accessible by the thief. The thief then uses that information to create duplicate cards and make purchases.

The continued rise of skimming, particularly at gas stations, has prompted companies to update their payment devices with EMV technology, which reads a small chip inside the card, rather than the card’s magnetic strip. However, skimmers are still ubiquitous; typically found installed at small, isolated fueling stations at pumps farthest from the cash register.

Shoulder Surfing

When a person looks over your shoulder at an ATM or other place you may be using a debit card and entering your pin number. They can get your card account number and then learn your pin number by watching you enter it. From there, they would be able to use your debit account anywhere they want.

There is little concrete data on the frequency of shoulder surfing or the most vulnerable situations where one is susceptible to the practice, however a 2017 case study conducted by Media Informatics Group of LMU Munich, Germany concluded, based on a survey given out in the United States, Germany and Egypt, that the overwhelming majority of shoulder surfing involves strangers reading text conversations on the smartphones of strangers for the sake of boredom and curiosity without malicious intent or dangerous consequences.

Companies

In the first half of 2016, there were a record-breaking 621 mass data breaches reported worldwide. These are hackers who are attacking large companies and corporations, attempting to break into their databases and pull out any stored financial or personal information on their customers and clients.

  • Target – In 2013, the US store was compromised and 40 million credit cards were stolen along with 70 million customer accounts’ information.
  • Anthem – in 2015, they reported a data breach that had been going on for weeks. Someone had broken into their IT department’s records, potentially exposing each client’s name, birthdate, social security number, income data, etc.
  • Home Depot – in 2014, they were attacked via a vendor through their computer’s network and 56 million credit card numbers and 53 million email addresses were stolen.

Major companies may have better security but can also be a more tempting target for potential hackers because of the wealth of information that could be retrieved if they were successful. Obviously, the attacks on Target, Anthem and Home Depot were a huge pay-off for the hackers and a catastrophic financial nightmare for the companies and, at minimum, a significant inconvenience for their customers.

How Identity Theft Happens

Emails

So how does personal information get out into dangerous territory? 23% of identity theft begins with phishing emails. Potential scammers send emails posing as a legitimate business that a person may or may not already be associated with (i.e.: a bank or credit card company) and manipulate the victim into giving them pertinent confidential information. This release of information ultimately leads to their financial accounts and/or identity being used without their permission. A phishing email is usually recognizable because the sender is asking you to verify your information through a non-secure online source. Also, generally speaking, a legitimate business would not contact you through email if there were any sort of breach of security on your account; they would either call a customer directly and/or just shut down their card.

Websites

Sometimes, scammers will set up legitimate-looking websites that are really just a ploy to acquire the user’s information. This could be in the form of a merchant website online where the user thinks they are buying an item that they never receive and, instead, have their information stolen. Other times, the scammer will make a page that looks and acts just like a well-known or reputable bank or credit institution but with a slightly different web address. The user trusts the site because it looks like a real one, enters their information, and never hears back from the site, only to find out that their information was stolen and misused.

Third parties

In addition, many people don’t realize that large corporations and popular businesses routinely sell their users’ information. These companies are required by law to put into their terms and conditions that they are able to sell your information but very few people actually look into that information when filling out forms online. By selling that information to third parties, it opens people up to spam emails, mail, phone calls, and a whole host of other problems. In recent years, major companies such as Google and Facebook have come under fire for these practices and it has becoming increasingly difficult to avoid your browsing history being exploited for market research and financial gain.

IRobot, the company behind the automated vacuum Roomba, has recently courted controversy when details leaked that it may begin to sell the data gathered by higher end Roomba models in the process of cleaning a home. Roombas use these data about the location of furniture and household appliances to more effectively tidy up a room. However, experts speculate that a Roomba would also be able to determine information about owners private lives based on lack of certain household items, or, for example, the presence of a baby chair in the living room, and sell it to advertisers who would be able to target people with alarmingly specific offers catered to their speculated needs.

Phone

In 2014, 54% of people reported that their fraudulently used information was initiated by a phone call. Most commonly, a scammer will pose as a representative from a financial institution and tell the victim that they have had suspicious activity on their account and that they need to have the victim verify information. It is only later that the victim realizes that they’ve been lied to and that they basically handed over their entire security to a stranger on the phone.

Physical collection

Another way your information can be compromised is by physical collection. If you’ve ever lost your purse or had your wallet stolen or even left a credit card behind at a restaurant, you are in danger. Additionally, personal information can be acquired by dumpster diving or digging through trash to find anything that was discarded without being shredded. Most banks and doctors’ offices have policies in place where they are required to shred personal information, but it may not occur to people that their trash from home might be gone through either by people they allow into their home or predators who could dig through your trash bin out by the road before it is collected. Any acquisition of a physical piece of identification puts someone at risk.

Information accrued from items thrown out in the trash–whether it be a gas bill or a grocery list–can allow a scammer to learn highly specific information about a homeowner’s personal life. The thief can then use the knowledge in a very convincing phishing or phone scam.

This type of scam seem far-fetched and highly unlikely, but it has been documented:

Through the years, I have been amazed at the things you can find in the trash. There is big business for identity thieves in personal garbage. More importantly, once you put your garbage out on the street for trash pickup, it usually becomes open to the public. This means that if I am so inclined, I can take that garbage and bring it home, which is exactly what I did. Each week I would snap on my rubber gloves and go through every item of trash: grocery store shopping lists, sticky notes with phone numbers, a private invitation for a little girl to a friend’s birthday party, and much more. As I continued to go through the managers’ trash, I was able to compile a list of their service providers: water bill, phone bill, gas and electric, cable, and so on. I could use this information not only to gain access into their lives but, if I wanted, to take over their lives.

Ultimately, I decided to use the billing information for the bank managers’ Internet service providers as an access point for my attack. Using the information I gained from the bills, I contacted the managers and explained that I was from that company. I told them that we were updating our services and that, for them to continue to have Internet service, they would be required to install updated software. I explained that the software would be arriving within the next week.

Because I was also able to reference their past billing information during the call, the victims never suspected a thing. Within a week, they each received a package in the mail that contained “upgrade software” and instructions. One by one, the managers installed the software.

Of course, the software they had just installed was actually malicious and designed specifically to allow me to access their computer via the Internet from anywhere in the world. Shortly after they installed the software, I was on their computers going through all their files. Within a few short days, I had usernames and passwords to corporate systems and even VPN access, which allowed me to connect directly to the financial institution’s internal network.

Prevention Plan Checklist

There are a few warning signs that personal information is or could be compromised. If a red flag is raised, a lot of damage can be avoided.

Debit/Credit Card

  • Make sure that no one seems too close or nosy when entering a pin number into an ATM or other debit machine.
  • Turning the card reader away from prying eyes or shielding a pin code when entering it should be done every time.
  • If anyone seems nosy, wait and let them go first and then finish after they leave.
  • Beware of people snooping through personal documents at home or work as this could lead to a compromise of security.

Web Safety

  • Notice that there is a difference between https:// and http://. The “s” will tell you if the site is a secure, or encrypted, site. This means that potential thieves cannot easily pilfer information you provide on this site.
  • In addition, a secure site will show a picture of a closed padlock next to the domain name.
  • Check to see if the link presented to you in an email or text message is legitimate. Any text can become a clickable link but what it links to is obscured. Most popular browsers allow the user to hover over the link and it will reveal the true link at the bottom of the page or next to the link. This way, the user can see the link they’re presented with before clicking and accidentally exposing themselves to danger.
  • Another precaution to take is to enter the link into com which, “analyzes a website through multiple blacklist engines and online reputation tools to facilitate the detection of fraudulent and malicious websites”.
  • For shortened URLs, like bit.ly/ addresses, use Sucuri, which will expand the short link and search the actual destination link to make sure it is safe.
  • Do not click on any attachments in emails from unknown senders as they could automatically download malware software onto your computer that can be nearly impossible to remove.
  • Use trusted browsers that have built-in phishing protection. Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Edge are all designed to alert you of phishing websites before they are entered.
  • Any site that utilizes pop-up advertisements and has obnoxious ads should raise a red flag. These sites are usually created to generate income for the owner and more filler than actual useful information. Sites like these are more likely to be used for phishing and tricking the user into downloading malware.

Phishing

  • If anyone calls and requests personal information, immediately be suspicious of their identity. If they are truly from a bank, they should be able to verify your information to you, not require that you verify it with them.
  • If you did not initiate the call, you can’t be sure that they are being honest about who they are. A good way to check that they are able to confirm multiple points of information about your account, including current balance or recent purchases.
  • Avoid any ploy that is emotionally charged or tries to create a sense of urgency, especially where scammers might try to make you feel scared or vulnerable. This is the easiest way for them to make someone give up personal information.
  • Be aware that any emails that come to your inbox from an unknown user with an emotional plea for help is likely a scam. No, there isn’t a prince in Nigeria that needs help unlocking his multi-million dollar inheritance and needs your bank account information so he can reward you with a financial gift for helping him. While cultural familiarity with the old “Nigerian Prince” scam may lead one to conclude that it’s no longer an effective means of identity theft, the FBI reports that millions continue to be taken each year in such scams, and they come in a number of guises, so beware.
  • Check the email address from seemingly reputable companies. Generally, you will find a noreply@amazon.com or similar return email address. If the domain name after the @ symbol is not the corporation’s name, raise that red flag and proceed with caution.
  • When using Gmail, utilize the “authentication icon for verified senders” which will show a key symbol next to verified users. This should automatically be enabled with each account.
  • Be concerned if the “To:” and “Cc:” fields are addressed to multiple users. This generally means that random email addresses were generated using a computer and they’re just hoping someone bites on their scam.
  • Notice misspellings or improper grammar usage. Any legitimate company will not use poor grammar and punctuation. If it sounds fishy, it probably is. Oddly enough, the obvious misspellings and typos in an email are occasionally part of the scam. By ensuring that clever people trash the email, they are isolating the most credulous targets for follow-up emails.
  • Always check the domain name of the site you are on. If you think you are on twitter.com but the domain name is T V V rather than TW, it is likely a scam site setup to mirror a real site.
  • If an email claims to be from law enforcement and states that you are legally required to provide information, immediately call your local authorities. Law enforcement does not use email to contact people. Ever.

Strengthen Your Data Security

  • Be aware of which network you are logging into. People are susceptible of scams in public places such as coffee shops that offer open wireless networks as hackers often create “evil twin” networks with names that are nearly identical to those of the establishment’s to lure unsuspecting people into logging in and then stealing their information.
  • As a rule, avoiding malware in any form is integral to security. Malware is identified as any software that is intended to damage or disable a computer. Apple computers are generally regarded as safer from malware because viruses are harder to create for their operating system along with them being less appealing because they are less used globally than windows computers.
  • However, they are not impervious to spyware, which is software used to retrieve a user’s personal information by covertly stealing data from a hard drive. Installing a network protection program such as Norton Anti-Virus can block infected downloads, warn you about known social media scams and flag suspicious content. Regular operating system updates also protect against the latest spyware.
  • Using encrypted sites was mentioned in passing before but it is of utmost importance and needs to be remembered. If a website begins with http:// it is NOT encrypted and any information entered on it is subject to being public information. Only sites that begin with https:// are encrypted.
  • Alternatively, if you would like to take a more proactive stance at protecting online predators from getting your IP address, you could utilize a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, service.

VPN services mask your IP address and give you a generalized IP address from anywhere in the world you choose. Hackers won’t be able to use your IP address to access your confidential information any time you are utilizing this tool. Even better, it can be used on any computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone via a downloadable desktop application or smartphone app.

  • Passwords should be changed every 4-6 months, especially those linked to financial and medical institutions.
    • Use a complex and unique password, utilizing capitalization, numerals, and symbols wherever possible.
    • Also, passwords should not be the same across the board for every login.
    • As complicated as it can be to remember each password, there are mobile apps for smartphones as well as desktop applications that keep track of passwords for you.
      • One highly recommended one is called LastPass, which is available for Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile for free. It not only stores your passwords in a safe place but also has a strong password generator. It is integrated into your phone’s browser and will automatically fill in login details for you. Users can choose to generate new, secure passwords and it will automatically add or update their list for them. This makes changing passwords easy to keep track of. It also syncs with your other devices seamlessly, allowing family password sharing.
      • Another app option is called Keeper and is available for free on iOS, Windows Phone and Android. Not only does it keep passwords but it also can secure personal information and share it with trusted contacts directly from the app. It, too, has a password generator and can auto-fill login information. It offers iCloud backup and syncing for a charge but gives you a free 30-day trial.
  • If trusting apps isn’t appealing or if you don’t own a smartphone, you could also keep a written list of usernames and passwords in a secure location.
  • As technology progresses, more secure technologies are becoming available. This includes, but is not limited to, voice recognition, iris-scanning, and fingerprint recognition.
    • The fingerprint is already being utilized in iPhones, the HTC One M9+, the Samsung Galaxy A8, and a handful of others.
  • Even better, apps that allow purchasing or could benefit from added security are using the fingerprint software built into these platforms.
    • Already, Amazon.com, eBay, the iTunes store and many others are encouraging users to utilize the fingerprint in place of a password not only for ease of use but increased security. It doesn’t hurt that it is much quicker to press your finger to the sensor than to type a username and password.
  • Security extends far beyond the digital realm, too. Making sure that personal documents are shredded rather than just discarded is something most people don’t think about but should. If you don’t have a shredder, there are companies like UPS or The Office Depot that will shred documents for a nominal fee.
  • Finally, make sure you review your credit report annually. Under the FACT Act, Federal law allows you a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year. Make sure to run that report every year and review any flags for accuracy. Any incorrect information or reports can be disputed and an audit can be requested to review the information. Yes, it is time-consuming and often arduous but it is absolutely worth the effort. Each of the major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — offer a subscription service that allows you to check your score whenever you want but you can access your free reports by going to the Annual Credit Report website. This is a secure, federally-assembled website that asks you for your social security number so make sure you are on a secure computer and in a private place where no one might snoop over your shoulder while entering your information.

Recover Your Identity Checklist

Because it can be embarrassing to admit that you have been scammed, often times (and surprisingly) victims will let their pride get the best of them and will not submit a report – this what a lot of scammers hope for.

The Bureau of Justice reports that fewer than only 1 in 10 identity theft victims report the incident to the police.

  1. Acting quickly is integral to getting your identity back.
    1. The quicker you report it the sooner you can flag your accounts and avoid further damage.
  2. Have a physical copy of your accounts and credit/debit card information.
    1. Make sure it’s stored in a secure place. It’s important to have quick access to the account numbers so you can actively contact and report the lost or stolen cards.
  3. File a fraud alert immediately, even if misuse is only suspected.
    1. A fraud alert will bring up a notification when your credit is run and attempted uses will prompt verification of the user’s identity.
    2. This makes it more difficult for people to use your information, especially if they don’t have a copy of your driver’s license.
    3. You create the alert by calling one of the three major credit bureaus directly. It doesn’t matter which one is called because they are required to report the alert to the other two, saving you the trouble of calling each one directly.
    4. This alert will stay on your report for 90 days unless you call and remove it.
  4. If you are sure your identity is being misused, initiate a credit freeze with all of your compromised accounts.
    1. For this service, each credit bureau has to be contacted directly. A credit freeze is different from an alert because a credit freeze will make it so that banks and other companies that might open a line of credit will be denied access to your credit report, making it much more difficult for the perpetrator to open a line of credit.
    2. It is generally a free service but occasionally there is a nominal charge.
    3. When initiating your credit freeze, remember to request a copy of your credit report.
      1. Each bureau should give you details on how to obtain your report. Otherwise, you can obtain your credit reports online for free. Credit Karma is one of the most frequently used and trusted online credit report services in existence.
  5. File an identity theft report.
    1. This alerts federal and local authorities of the crime. This will give you the momentum you need to effectively fight any fraudulent charges and accounts.
    2. The first step is to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. This division of the government is set up to help protect consumers and combat fraud, such as identity theft.
    3. Once the report is filed online, they provide something called an Identity Theft Affidavit, which is good to print and keep on file for your records.
  6. File a report with the local police.
    1. Calling in advance is often a good idea so they can let you know what items you should bring with you to not only verify your identity but also substantiate the theft claims. Remember to request a copy, again, for your records.
  7. Contact each of the credit bureaus directly.
    1. Each fraudulent item must have a dispute raised with the bureau it relates to. It is also wise to contact the lenders and collection agencies that are involved. As tedious and time consuming as this may be, cleaning up the mess gets harder and harder as time passes. The more effort you put into shutting down the thief immediately, will ensure there’s less mess to clean up later.
  8. Keep a written log of which credit bureau, lender or collection agency you contact along with who was spoken to, instructions they gave, and what time the calls were made.
    1. Keeping these sorts of notes not only help keep track of all the steps that each company gives to resolve the fraud but also gives the victim leverage if later there is a subsequent fraudulent charge made despite the account flags and credit freeze.
  9. Contact the businesses at which your identity was used falsely.
    1. If you noticed that your social security number was used to rent an apartment, contact the apartment complex. If your credit card information was used on Amazon.com, contact them and let them know about the fraud so that they can cancel any pending payments or shipments.
  10. Once the mess has been cleaned up and you’re ready to open up your accounts again, ask to begin an extended fraud alert.
    1. Contacting each credit bureau directly will activate this service and it allows you to have a heightened security status put on your identity as well as access to two credit reports a year, as opposed to the one allowed normally.

Find Help and Support

If you’re overwhelmed, it’s understandable. It’s almost impossible to stay ahead of the new ploys conceived every day. It might be a wise idea to consider investing in an Identity Theft Protection service. Their job is to watch your back by monitoring new accounts being opened in your name and suspicious activity on your credit accounts. It can be expensive but it’s worth it. Which company you choose depends on whether your identity has been stolen yet or not.

  • If you have already suffered identity theft, you may want to consider a company like ID Watchdog ($14.95 or $19.95/month), whose primary goal is to help you recover your identity, even if the offenses happened before you joined their service.
  • If protection, before identity theft happens, is the goal, a company like Identity Force might be a good option ($12.95/month with a 30-day free trial or $19.95/month).

Resources

Honestly, one of the best resources that I have found is a compiled list of 87 security experts’ Twitter accounts. They tweet daily about the latest trends, news, and security concerns to be aware of. The list can be found here. You can follow them individually or choose to follow all of them at the same time.

Another useful list comes from Heimdal security, which includes over 50 tips and tricks from various security experts.

Below you’ll find more good places to find statistics and more in-depth information on identity theft and keeping security a priority.

Cyber Bullying: Helping the Bullied, Stopping the Bullies

46218_Cyberbullying2_120216

Introduction

Children and teens, who are just learning to navigate social relationships, often find themselves in social situations that are fraught with awkward exchanges. When the line between normal, even acceptable, playful teasing crosses into bullying, problems arise. It’s often difficult for them, and even adults, to discern when teasing becomes bullying, and when a laughing together becomes laughing at someone else’s expense.

Simply put, bullying can be boiled down to unwanted social attention. While it can be subtle or blatant; take place online, or in public; be physical or aggressive; there are a few characteristics that can help define bullying.

What Defines Bullying?

RIP is a good mnemonic to help remember the key elements of defining bullying behavior:

Repetition

Bullying is repetitive, especially after the bullied person has asked for it to stop; thus, the bully is aware that s/he is causing the bullied person(s) physical/emotional discomfort, and furthering the power dynamic. Additionally, bullying is often focused, repeatedly, on the same person, or groups of people.

Power

Bullying is done with the intent of hurting others. This can be physically, or emotionally. A bully is fully aware that they are hurting their targets, and do it anyway.

Intent

In general, a bully (or group of bullies) is in a position of social, or physical, power over the person(s) s/he is bullying. The misconception about bullying is that it’s done only by (a) physically strong person(s), or a popular person(s).

For more on the definition of bullying, see the American Psychological Association, Stop Bullying.Gov, or the National Bullying Prevention Center.

What are Typical Behaviors of Bullies?

Bullying behaviors can range from anything to excluding others from social groups, to physical aggression. It is a wide range that includes verbal, social and physical behaviors. For example, verbal, physical and social behaviors are all included in the definition of bullying.

Physical Bullying

Physical Bullying can range from intimidation, threats, and assault. Bullies can resort to any form of violence, such as pushing, kicking, punching or other such examples.

Childhood Example: A child pushes another child down, and steals his toy, or swing, at the playground.

Teen Example: One teen accidentally-on-purpose bumps into another in the hallway, between classes, spilling his books and papers.

Daven, who was bullied as a child, tells Parents and Teens Against Bullying.org, that the constant physical abuse that he endured from his bully, such as flicking, punching, and even having his bully’s snot wiped on him, was humiliating. He describes the effect of this time as isolating, and full of self-doubt, and that like most victims of bullies, he regrets not involving an adult. Daven lived to tell his tale, and recognize that, in his words, “bullying is the weak choice,” but, according to a Yale University study, bullied victims are up to 9% more likely to consider suicide; and, in the UK, some studies have linked up to half of youth suicides to bullying.

 Verbal/Social Bullying/Relational Bullying

Verbal bullying includes harassment in the form of teasing and taunting, such as name calling, manipulation, and spreading false rumors. According to StopBullying.gov, this is meant to destroy the victim’s reputation. Perhaps, most painful, relational and social bullying is also about socially isolating a victim, and making him/her feel like they don’t belong to their peer group.

Childhood Example: You are a poopie pants! You can’t play with us because you smell bad! We don’t play with poopie pants!

Teen Example: A group of girls stops talking as soon as Jennifer approaches. Jennifer, until a few weeks ago, considered those girls her best friends. She asks what their plans are for the weekend, and the girls exchange glances with one another, snicker, and one girl replies, “um, nothing you’d want to do.” The rest of the girls laugh. Jennifer walks away, and the girls immediately start talking and laughing again.

An Anonymous girl shares that her social isolation lead to her eventual need to be home-schooled, via a cyber-program. She says that it all started with a group of girls and a rumor that spread like wildfire; the anonymous victim lost all of her friends, and became increasingly isolated by her bullies. Still, she was not at peace, because her bullies created false social media accounts to leave cruel and taunting messages and comments on her social media pages. She wasn’t safe from their isolation, even in isolation. Ultimately, when she returned to school, her bullies weren’t finished with her. She tried to stand up for herself, but to no avail. Not unlike many bullying situations, this one doesn’t simply end; it trails on and on, highlighting administrative need for no-contact and knock-it-off policies.

Online Bullying

Online bullying consists of harassing a victim through social media, text message, email and other messaging systems. It also includes using a school’s online resources, or false online accounts to destroy a person’s online reputation.

Childhood Example: Depends on the social media access a child has.

Teen Example: Nice bathing suit. Ever hear of a diet? Or the gym?

There is almost no end to the examples of online bulling stories in the media these days. For example, Hannah Smith, was taunted mercilessly regarding her weight, skin condition, and even a death in her family, on the messaging site Ask.fm, for weeks leading up to her suicide in 2013. Or, there is the story of Grace K. McComas, who was cyberbullied for months leading up to her suicide in 2012.

Online Bullying – Sexually Explicit Subcategory

Online bullying may have a sexual component, such as blackmail, as the bully may have access to compromising information or explicit content. The misconception is that the teen always sends the compromising material to the bully themselves. This isn’t always the case; and even if it were, it doesn’t, or shouldn’t matter. For example, in the case of Erin Andrews, the TV Sportscaster and personality who was famously involved in the “peephole” video and subsequent cyberbullying saga, she was videotaped, in the nude, in her hotel rooms, as she traveled for work, without her knowledge over the course of several years. Her life and career was nearly destroyed by a bully, and she continues to endure cyberbullies who tweet and message her regularly about the incident. Often, teens have photos (or videos) taken of them in bathrooms, through windows, or when they are unconscious. The very real pain at the loss of reputation, coupled with the mockery from peers, can be devastating.

Take the suicide of Jessica (Jesse) Logan, a typical, otherwise happy high school senior from Ohio, who sexted a nude to her boyfriend. They broke up, and he cruelly sent the photo to everyone at their school. She tried to soldier on, but her grades dropped, she started skipping school, and to make it through the day, she’d hide in the bathroom to avoid the students who were calling her a slut, and a whore. She even tried to make the best of a bad situation, going on a local news program as a victim’s advocate for cyberbullying, hoping to prevent something similar from happening to someone else. But, after attending the funeral for someone else, another suicide, Jesse came home and hung herself in her closet.

Who are Most Targeted for Bullying

Bullying can seem random, sometimes; but current research shows that nearly a quarter of students report being bullied. There is some data to suggest that certain types of students are at more risk for bullies than others, and certain personalities are more at risk for being bullies than others.

Students who are more likely to be bullied are generally perceived as “different” than their peers. LGBT youth, and those with disabilities, are especially at risk. However, these, and others, are protected under the law, from such provocation. For example, race, religion ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation and disability are all protected classes, under national law. Schools should all be versed on law, and have policies in place to protect these students, should conflicts arise.

Aside from the general idea of those who are less popular than the “in crowd,” students who simply don’t get along well with others, appear anxious, or are unable to defend themselves against provocation are easy targets for bullies. Of course, those who look different than others are always targets for bullies as well; this means that those who are overweight, or who dress differently, or wear their hair in a different fashion. None of the above list will necessarily guarantee that someone will be harassed, but it will certainly not help, if a bully is out to get them.

Often, educators focus on the victims of bullying, and fail to identify the types of students who can become bullies, and therefore don’t intervene before there’s a potential problem. But, it’s equally important to help the bully; according to the Olweus Bullying Prevention Group, 60 percent of boys who were bullies in middle school had a criminal conviction by 24. Shockingly, 40 percent had three or more convictions.

Bullies are born from students who are not only overly-concerned with social status, but also with dominance over their weaker peers to bolster, or mask, their own self-esteem issues. Bullies that turn to physical aggression, not surprisingly, often have issues with violent behavior, and with following rules and standards, and often “hang” with the wrong crowd. Perhaps most importantly, according to a University of Washington and Indiana University Study, administrators may be able to spot them early and intervene, by noting that bullies are far more likely to come from troubled and violent homes.

Cyber Bullying

Definition of Cyberbullying:

The same qualities of repeated, intentional, and social/psychological power plays are involved with cyberbullying. The only difference is that the bullying takes place via electronic mediums such as cell phones, computers or other electronic devices. Cyberbullying can be threatening text messages, e-mails; or, it can even rumors or information posted on public, social media sites or message boards. It can take place exclusively online; or, bullies can combine cyberbullying with traditional bullying.

Cyberstalking

It’s easy to confuse cyberbullying with cyberstalking, especially because we often hear these words used interchangeably, sometimes. It’s especially easy to become confused because cyberbullying has an element of stalking to it: the relentless messaging, the social media pages, and the ability to track the victim, online.

However, cyberstalking is a bit different. Cyberstalking is a repetitive, malicious vendetta often with no legitimate purpose, ironically against a very personal target, carried out with premeditation and obsessive zeal. Cyberstalkers disregard all warnings to stop their illegal activity, and reasonable reasons to stop (like that they are causing distress to another human being).

How is Cyberbullying Different?

Cyberbullying is, in many ways, different than “typical” bullying. Cyberbullying is primarily psychological, as it’s perpetrated through social manipulation and intimidation via messaging and interference with one’s social status through message boards and groups. The primary, and most important, difference between cyberbullying, and traditional bullying, is that it can, and often does, occur 24-hours a day. Cyberbullying takes the “repetition part of bullying to the extreme.

Victims have no respite, or safe place, from their bullies. If they are being bullied on their cell phones, their message beep can go off, even in the safety of their bedroom, even when they are asleep. If they are gaming, involved in a safe community of peer players, it can quickly be infiltrated by bullies who attack them with brutal messages, or ostracization.

Another major difference with cyberbullying is that the “power” may not be the same typical social or physical imbalance that a typical bully has over their victim. Instead, a cyberbully may have access to virtual information, such as an “incriminating,” message, e-mail, or photograph that the victim doesn’t want anyone else to see. This is still an imbalance of power, but not in the traditional sense. It changes the power dynamic, and makes power somewhat of a grey area in the bully/victim relationship, as the bully may have access to this information because they were formerly close, or even intimate, with their victim.

Cyberbullying and Sex

Worst of all, much of cyber bullying, especially among older students, is sometimes sexually motivated, or sexually graphic. Even if untrue, cyber bullying can spread false rumors, ruining reputations through social groups. While the CDC reports that sexual promiscuity among teens is down, with an average of less than 30% of teens having engaged in sexual activity in the previous three months, 21% of those surveyed had been drinking or doing drugs, prior to sexual activity. With inhibitions lowered, photos, texts and videos are a problem.

The subjects of the new Netflix document documentary, Audrie and Daisy (2016), are teenage girls who both admit to drinking more than they normally would one night. These girls learn the hard way that the boys they thought they trusted to care for them at their worst are only lying in wait for their weakest moments, snapping photos of them as they disrobe them, probe their nude bodies, and then spreading videos, texts or rumors around their respective schools. Audrie’s will doesn’t withstand the torturous rigor of the texts, emails and constant shaming she feels at the loss of her reputation; she commits suicide. Daisy attempts to kill herself several times, especially when she learns that her perpetrators will not face sexual assault charges, and she’s called a liar and a whore by her fellow students, former friends via text and message, relentelessly.

However, not all victims of cyberbullying find online contact distressing. In fact, according to the Second Youth Internet Safety Survey, 38% of students weren’t bothered by being harassed online. It was only when online harassment crossed into offline harassment as well, did they feel upset by e-bullying.

Importance of Cyberbullying

Estimates of victims of cyberbullying vary; some studies find as many as 40% of students have reported incidents of cyberbullying. According to the CDC, 15% of high school students have reported being electronically bullied, in the past year; and, according to the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, 7% of students between grades 6-12 experienced cyber-bullying. Noting that cyberbullying appears to more than double, when restricted to high school students, but is reported early, begs intervention and knowledge regarding how students are engaging, and how to intervene as early as possible.

Cyberbullying.org conducted a study that made it especially clear to students what the definition of cyberbullying is. They told students that cyberbullying meant “repeatedly mak[ing] fun of another person online, or repeatedly pick[ing] on another person through email or text message; or when someone posts something online about another person that they don’t like.” With this definition, about 25% of 10,000 randomly selected 11-18 year olds reported that they’d been cyberbullied (over the past seven years); but only 12% in the past year (January 2014). 17% admitted to cyberbullying others in the past seven years; and only 4% admitted to bullying others in the past year.

This data tells us that while we may have been behind, figuring out this arena where students have been harassing their peers, programs and procedures that are designed to target and reduce it, are working. Therefore, we need to continue to both recognize and highlight cyberbullying as a problem, and we need to work toward positive and effective solutions to eliminate it.

Identifying Cyberbullying

Identifying cyberbullying starts by realizing that you need to look for both victims and bullies. Unlike traditional bullying, victims and bullies share some similar behaviors, such as hiding their phone screens from teachers, quickly minimizing computer browser windows from adults, or refuses to discuss their online activity with adults (or others). However, victims and bullies do behave differently in other ways.

 Identifying Cyberbullies

  • Seems to have multiple accounts, or access to others’ accounts
  • Uses electronic devices at all hours of the day, especially (and including) at night
  • Expresses inappropriate anger at limits on electronic device usage

 Identifying Cyberbully Victims

  • Generalized increase in anxiety, depression or frustration
  • Increased anger, frustration or depression after using electronic media
  • Refusal to talk with parents or teachers about online activities
  • Stops using electronic devices
  • Withdrawal from social, or even home, activity

In this video, despite some of the out dated technology, we see many the examples of a “typical,” cyberbully, and a “typical,” cyberbullying victim. The bully makes attempts to socially isolate the victim, makes him feel socially inferior, and is cruel. The victim withdraws at home, seems sad and refuses to discuss his problem with his mother, quickly hiding all evidence.

Identifying Cyberbullying Culture

According to recent data, students are less likely to report cyberbullying when their school promotes a climate with safe peer-to-peer relationships, and a generally safe environment. Currently, there is not enough research on this nebulous topic; but according to Cyberbyullying.org, students who agreed with statements such as, “feel[ing] safe at school,” feel[ing] that teachers at their school really try to help them succeed,” and “feel[ing] that teachers at their school care about them,” were less likely to report either being victims of cyberbullying, or being cyberbullies themselves. The good news, is that while incidents of cyberbullying are up more than 50 percent in the last five years, nearly 70 percent of students who felt harassed sought help from a trusted friend, parent, or other adult authority figure, leaving room for trusted practices to work.

If You See Something, Say Something

There’s no room for bystanders in bullying. With over 80% of teens using a cell phone, it’s difficult to catch; but, that’s why it’s important for adults to be engaged in the lives of young people and adolescents. Ask questions. Be involved. Notice when things are different. Quite simply: pay attention. And remember, bystanders are victims too. Bystanders report symptoms of anxiety, guilt and shame associated with incidents of bullying.

How to Help in a Cyber Bullying Situation

There’s a relatively simple list of items/ideas that can help in any cyberbullying situation:

Form Relationships

Be a friend to youth. Or, encourage your children to have an adult friend. It’s okay if your children feel more comfortable confiding in a coach, or teacher; just make sure they feel comfortable confiding in someone.

Talk it Out

Mediation can sometimes help resolve a bullying situation, if it’s a misunderstanding that has blown out of proportion. Attempt a talk-it-out situation carefully, if you engage a trained counselor as a mediator and you are confident that violence won’t escalate.

Go Online

Make sure you visit websites that your children frequent, with them, and learn the ins and outs of the pages. Get to know their online “friends,” and be aware of their online activity. Know when things change.

Teach Them Appropriate Responses

It’s never a good idea to add fuel to a fire; so, teach your children not to respond to cyberbullies. Don’t give them any information, respond to any messages, or let them know that they are bothering you. In many ways, this is not much different than traditional bullying; as emotional as it may seem, leaving it alone, may be the best answer.

Evidence

Despite the grey areas of the laws, cyberbullying and cyberstalking are against the law. While there is some potential shame and fear associated with cyberbullying, especially if it’s related to sexual activity, or rule-breaking such as underage drinking or drug use, it’s vital that kids and teens are instructed to never delete any harassing messages.

Report

All online services, such as Facebook, or even Craigslist, have reporting services to report unauthorized, or inappropriate usage, and cyberbullying. Without screenshots and evidence, it’s almost impossible to enforce their policies, however. Utilize their reporting services, and provide them with the evidence you’ve saved to quickly put an end to “small” incidents of cyberbullying.

Utilize Law Enforcement

Most schools have resource officers; engage them, and make sure they are aware of incidents of cyberbullying among the students in their purview. More importantly, make sure that they are aware of the laws that govern cyberbullying in their state, and how to enforce them. Resource officers are specially trained to deal with students and adolescents; sometimes, simply allowing the resource officer to intervene is enough to scare the cyberbully into stopping, rather than engaging criminal charges. However, if activity continues, or if harassment is especially malicious, engage the entire team and report activity to the local and state authorities.

Knock-it-Off Policy and No-Contact

If the bullying is especially pervasive or violent, and as such is affecting the learning environment, it is important to make sure that students are supervised and kept apart as much as possible, both to protect their safety, and to keep other students from being affected. It’s important to make sure that the situation is left to fizzle, rather than ignite. An adult can be provided to walk a student to class, to sit nearby, but not necessarily with the student, in the cafeteria, for example.

Appoint Staff at Every Level

An anti-bullying task manager or team manager should be assigned at the elementary through high school level to work with faculty, administrators, counselors and staff to be kept abreast of all new information in the field, and to have “boots on the ground,” as it were, with the students. Engage a staff member who cares about bullying, stopping it, and about student mental health.

Recognize Limits of “Zero-Tolerance” Programs

Zero-tolerance sounds good on paper, and it sounds good to parents; but, for kids it can sound scary and it can make them afraid to report bullying for fear of reprisal, perhaps even fearing that they may be disciplined themselves, as part of the bullying scenario. Zero tolerance policies have their merits, but it’s important to recognize their limits when dealing with complex bullying scenarios, adolescents and teens.

Engage Parents

Parents are a valuable resource. In many cases, they will be the ones who will be able to tell you if the student’s eating, sleeping, or behavior habits have drastically changed, which will help sound the alarm to a more serious situation. Additionally, parents are a great resource to help reinforce school policy; as administrators you want them on your team, so listen to their needs and be conscious of them. Their primary concern, and yours, is stopping their child’s hurt.

Engage the Community

Community leaders, especially city and county leaders such as mayors and city council members have taken strong roles in speaking out against anti-bullying. Take the time to engage them in speaking at your school, or in writing letters to your students. Engage your local sports teams, or other civic leaders to form a culture of anti-bullying at your school.

Environment

The best way to prevent bullying, of any kind, is to create an environment where bullying isn’t tolerated or condoned. In an ideal world, this is easy. All students love one another, and everyone gets along. There’s no gossip, everyone’s a star athlete, plays in the school band, and gets straight A’s. But, that’s not how it works. So, StompOutBullying, makes these Top 20 suggestions for “Stomping Out” Bullying in your school:

  1. Don’t laugh
  2. Don’t encourage the bully
  3. Stay at a safe distance, and help the target get away
  4. Don’t become an “audience” for the bully
  5. Reach out and become a friend to a bullying victim
  6. Help the victim in any way that you can
  7. Support the victim in private
  8. If you notice someone being isolated, invite them to join you
  9. Include the victim in some of your activities
  10. Tell an adult if you see bullying, or are being bullied
  11. Encourage your school to participate in bullying or cyberbullying prevention programs
  12. Start a peer mentoring program at school
  13. Raise awareness of bullying and cyberbullying prevention in your community
  14. Teach friends about being more tolerant of others, even if they are different
  15. Ask your school to set up a private box where kids who are bullied can report it, anonymously
  16. Get someone to sponsor a conflict resolution team
  17. Encourage school administrators to adopt Internet-use policies that address online hate, harassment and pornography
  18. Create events in your school and community to raise anti-bullying, and bullying prevention awareness.
  19. Create bullying prevention awareness posters for your school
  20. Stand up and do something when you hear someone making jokes or comments about: someone’s sexual identity, family member(s), weight, clothing, skin color, accent, or disability.

Stomping Out

Sit with Us

Consider allowing the use of smart phones, especially with apps like SitWithUs, an app designed especially for bullied kids, by a teenager, a victim of bullying herself. The app is designed for kids with no one to sit with in the school cafeteria; they can designate themselves as “alone,” and hope that someone else, an ambassador, will see their avatar and invite them to their table, or vice versa. So far, it’s being used in lunchrooms across the country, and even internationally. It prevents kids from being openly rejected, if they stroll up to a table, and try to make a new friend, while simultaneously being invited to be friends with new people. It means never having to eat alone, and never being rejected.

Cyberbullying and the Law

Currently, cyberbullying is covered at the state level. All states have laws covering cyberbullying, but there is a wide range of what is allowable, for prosecution, or what is considered legal, or protected, under the letter of the law. The Cyberbullying Research Center keeps an updated, interactive map of what states have what laws, including those proposed.

Importantly, laws must consider the fact that cyberbullying can occur both on and off campus. So, laws have to be proposed in such a way that educators have to make a determination whether cyberbullying that happens off campus is having a noticeable detrimental effect on the learning environment on campus. To understand the confusion, realize that states either have decided on criminal sanctions, school sanctions, school policy, or an off-campus policy (or a combination of these).

These terms can be confusing, because they all sound so similar.

Sanction

A threatened penalty for disobeying.

Criminal Sanctions

Because cyberbullying (and bullying) can be classified as a crime, it is subject to criminal punishments.

School Sanctions

Schools get to create and adopt their own disciplinary measures and policies.

School Policy

The bullying law requires all states, apart from Montana, to set an anti-bullying policy to both identify behaviors and disciplinary policies.

School Sanctions

In some states, the bullying law gives the school latitude to discipline students in certain appropriate ways.

Off-Campus

As mentioned above, schools are allowed to discipline students for off-campus behavior, if they’ve determined that it disrupts the on-campus learning environment.

California has a “Yes” in all four categories above, for example; as does New Jersey, Louisiana and Pennsylvania and Tennessee. However, states like Wyoming are only 50% yes and 50% no. There are wide variations from state-to-state.

In some cases, felony harassment charges can be brought against cyberbullies; but, there is currently no federal laws against cyberbullying, specifically. The only specific federal laws, are those that can be brought against protected classes, as mentioned in Section 1. Protected classes, such as those with disabilities, LGBT, or minorities should be versed in the following federal laws. School administrators and staff should obviously be equally aware.

Cyberbullying Education

Education and information is part of the answer to stopping cyberbullying. Teaching our kids how to respond to harassment properly, and teaching our kids how not to bully, is a big part of the solution. So, how soon is too soon to teach kids about cyberbullying?

Kid’s Health recommends framing discussions about bullying, in general, as early as Pre-K, in age-appropriate ways. Eyes On Bullying agrees, pointing out that, often, people overlook early childhood years in bullying prevention, because they underestimate both children’s intelligence, and their emotional maturity. Teach InCntrl promotes cyberbullying education for all students across all areas of the curriculum.

Bullying in very young children can look very different, however, with a strong tendency toward subtle bullying for girls and physical bullying for boys. In an example described in their book, Dr. Storey and Dr. Slaby describe a scenario in which a preschool girl, sitting at lunch begins a game in which she questions the children at her table, requiring them to raise their hands for affirmative responses with prompts like, “who likes X, Y, Z.” All of her prompts are things that all children would be sure to respond in the affirmative to, such as candy, movies and the like. But, when she gets to the end of her inquiries, she asks, “and who likes Madeline?” This is the beginning of social bullying.

hey suggest bullying education for children begin as early as preschool with social skills education, while they develop the language skills to express the feelings they are having. It’s important to catch bullying behaviors while they are happening and reappoint them into appropriate social interactions. Story time and circle, or morning meeting time, they suggest, is a good time to use examples and engagement to point out appropriate ways to interact with peers, and to define the line between teasing and taunting.

Additionally, they recommend the key life skills of empathy, problem solving and assertiveness to both address bullying, and to prevent becoming one. To learn empathy, they suggest that students learn to label their feelings and that they learn to compare themselves to others in a way that helps them appreciate their differences. Additionally, helping others to feel better teaches children to feel better about themselves, and helps reinforce the “golden rule.” Problem solving activities, such as team-work, and rudimentary what-if scenarios help preschoolers learn to deal with frustration in a safe environment to build their self-confidence. Assertion activities, such as teaching kids to keep their cool, and role-playing response scenarios, and learning when to ignore and when to get help are important tools for preschoolers to both build their self-esteem, and to understand the complexities of bullying scenarios.

Counseling and Resources for Victims

There are several, national anti-bullying resource centers set up to both provide information, and to direct victims, parents, and educators to required resources. For example, the Victims of Crime Resource Center Hotline is reachable at 1-800-Victims, and through their website. Additionally, The Cyberbullying Research Center provides links to not only report bullying on all major social media sites, but also information and resources to victims, nationwide. StopBullying.gov also provides access to both information and links to both national phone number databanks, and links to local counselors.

StompOutBullying is a national website with a 24-7 web-chat service for teens to find access to help for support about bullying. Trained counselors monitor the chat room to provide support and assistance to teens who are looking for advice. Additionally, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s (AACP) website provides a clearinghouse of both information about bullying and cyberbullying, but also links to resources and links to counseling services in your child’s area.

 Cyberbullying on Social Media and  Popular Websites

New social media sites pop up seemingly every day. And, just as quickly fade away. Keeping up with what your tweens and tweens are doing online, and who they are doing it with, is important to helping them avoid both their being cyberbullied, or becoming one. For example, a newer(ish) social media site, Musical.ly has taken social media by storm, often outranking Snapchat and Instagram in the App Store. Musical.ly, a seemingly harmless video sharing site, where people can lip-sync to their favorite tunes, is no different than other social media sites, in terms of potential for cyberbullying or predatory danger. Privacy and user settings, and parental oversight can go a long way in preventing many dangerous, and harassment situations.

Facebook

While it seems, sometimes, that Facebook set the gold standard for social media, it seems that teens began migrating away from it sometime ago. Still, they have a bullying prevention hub, especially targeted at teens. In their hub is access to a PDF, which includes step-by-step instructions and conversation starter ideas for teens who have found themselves in harassment scenarios.

The first step, is always to unfriend someone who is bothering you, and block offensive people. Of course, if there are false accounts out there, this can become problematic, and like cutting the head off of a hydra, but start there. And, FB warns that blocking is reciprocal, so you won’t be able to see what they post about you anymore, which can make you feel antsy, wondering if, on their page, false information about you is spreading like wildfire, now that you can’t see it anymore. Still, FB warns that the best steps are to stay calm and not to retaliate. They suggest that if there is something you find particularly offensive, you can delete it from the areas of FB that you have access to, but warn to save things you may need as evidence, if required. Additionally, they provide scripts and prompts to start conversations with people about how to calmly approach online bullies.

Interestingly, the provide the opposite side of the scenario. They provide resources for the bully. They consider what it might be like to be approached by a victim, and be blindsided as a bully, perhaps not even aware that they’ve committed an offensive act. They provide advice for the bully and suggest the most appropriate behaviors if you have been told that you’ve done something offensive to another person. For example, they suggest that you take the other person’s feelings into account, before you get angry and offended, and that the first thing you should do is apologize.

Get access to the entire PDF here. There’s also an area with links and suggestions for parents.

YouTube

Block and Delete. The most common advice of any website is going to start with these simple instructions. If you are being bothered by “troll,” especially in an isolated incident, which, on a site like YouTube is the most likely scenario, the first place they advise starting is to delete offending comments, or to ask the user to do so, and block offensive users. YouTube does have specific polices against hate speech; for example, they do not allow violence or hate speech against anyone based on race or ethnic origin, relation, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity. They also have specific policies against setting up fake accounts, “Impersonation,” and any suspicion of such accounts should be reported immediately. YouTube also has very strict policies against Child Endangerment as it applies to depicting sex with minors, so sharing videos of underage children engaged in any sexual activity, is strictly prohibited and should absolutely be reported, especially as it pertains to cyberbullying situations. In these cases, being a bystander is against the law, not only against YouTube policy.

However, the rest of YouTube policy is a little greyer. For example, their policy regarding sexually explicit content is prohibitive when it comes to violent, humiliating or graphic fetish, but is inclusive when it comes to nudity when it is educational, documentary or artistic. Additionally, its graphic or violent content policy is essentially a free pass, so long as its journalistic, and especially if the title is descriptive and/or there is an especially clear warning to viewers.

Threats are taken seriously, and they caution that law enforcement should be engaged immediately; however. But, their policy on harmful or dangerous content, such as videos of drug use or of dangerous “challenges” such as the choking challenge, they deem allowable if the primary purpose is educational, documentary or scientific. Finally, they caution that the best way to avoid anything you don’t want to see is the block and delete button.

Instagram

Because of Instagram’s user settings, and communication settings, it’s particularly easy for cyberbullies to contact, and harass their victims, in various ways. For example, users can add cruel comments and hashtags to user’s photos, or create unflattering photos and attach them to a user’s photo/profile. Instagram has a reporting process for harassment and bullying.

Snapchat

Snapchat’s 10-second-and-it’s-gone makes it both easier, and more difficult for cyberbullies. It allows them to take incriminating photos, sometimes without the victim even realizing it, and send harassment without evidence lasting long enough to be traced. However, with quick knowledge of how to take a screenshot, a victim can track harassment, and there’s a way to stop the onslaught of constant messages. Snapchat has community guidelines, such as no pornography, and protecting someone’s privacy, such as not taking pics without someone else’s knowledge. And, Snapchat’s policy is no screenshots, despite their anti-bullying stance. It’s a nebulous arena. Still, they also have a reporting area; but also recommend a block first policy.

Snapchat does have policies to protect user’s privacy, and to prevent bullying. Primarily, to prevent cyberbullying, they do not allow for invasions of privacy, such as taking snaps of others without their knowledge. Additionally, they don’t allow for impersonation, much like YouTube, which means creating fake accounts, even to impersonate celebrities. Finally, they have a strict no-harassment policy, which means once someone has blocked you, you may not continue to harass them from another account, or from a new account. Their no-nudity policy, especially for those under 18 can contribute to a no-bullying environment by not allowing for embarrassing content, because it even prohibits sexually explicit drawings on otherwise benign snaps.

Twitter

According to both Buzzfeed News, and CIO, Twitter’s refusal to appropriately deal with cyberbullying and online abuse and harassment has drug the social media giant to near death. Twitter promises a revamp and an absolute focus on the issue. Their current advice starts with the same advice as the others: ignore, block and unfollow. They do have a reporting process on their website.

Skype

Skype’s online communities are a great way to meet and befriend all kinds of people, for all kinds of reasons, with all kinds of interests; however, there are all kinds of ways to find trouble when the world is so big. Communities on Skype can often help police themselves, with members reporting to one another when they are having trouble, and using the block and ignore feature. But, like all other social media features, Skype also has a report feature, depending on which interface you are using.

Messenger or Other Forums

Messenger and other chat forums rely on a community standard of “knowing” who you are talking to, rather than primarily stranger interaction, such as YouTube. The best way to avoid harassment is to be engaged with friends and people you are comfortable with, not with strangers. However, like all teens and tweens, social groups change, and falling outs occur, which can spill over into an online community setting. Again, ignore, block and delete when there’s trouble. If there’s evidence, save it. If there’s serious trouble, report it.

Data and Statistics

Much can be drawn from the raw data provided by bullying surveys. The primary data-gatherers on this topic are the CDC, The National Center for Education Statistics, and The Cyberbullying Research Center. Each of these sources compiles and gathers separate, but equally important sets of data that give us vital information.

When looked at, over time, from 2007, through 2016, the rate of reported cyberbullying offenders has declined sharply from 19.1% to 12.0% of students reporting self-reporting; however, the rates also fluctuate significantly from year to year, sometimes as much as 5-7%. Cyberbullying.org compiles data from ten different studies to gather an average of roughly 15.8% students who reported cyberbullying others, across the 9-year study period, with a low of 11.5% reporting in 2009, with an especially low sample class size. Intriguingly, the study compilation shows a sharp decrease in bullies self-reporting in 2009, suggesting that cyber bullying education has been helpful, but then an uptick to outpace 2007 numbers in 2010, and nearly again in 2011. It’s baffling to educators to figure out what works, and what doesn’t, to prevent bullying, when numbers like this present themselves over long spaces of time.

Intriguingly, victimization rates are nearly double the self-reporting rates for bullies, which suggests that either bullies are bullying more than one victim, that victims feel victimized by actions that bullies don’t necessarily feel is bullying, or that bullies are under-reporting. And, unlike the chaotic rise and fall of the bully self-reporting, victimization rates seem on a steady climb since 2007, with the exception of two slight dips in 2010 and 2013. The average reporting rate for victims, compiled over ten studies from cyberbullying.org is 27.9% and includes cyber bullying in all forms, such as e-mail, in the classroom, and over other electronic media.

An interesting comparison to note is the difference between reported victimization rates between middle schoolers and lifetime victimization rates. The rate doubles (or even triples) in almost all cases. This suggest an almost “grace” period in middle school where educators might be able to reach students and target bullying education, before the problem erupts.

Cyber bullying does not appear to discriminate for gender. Unlike other types of bullying where, for example, physical aggression is more typically associated with males, and social aggression is more typically associated with females, cyber bullying is more equally distributed. Both genders appear to be equally associated with cyber bullying behaviors. The disassociated connection with screens makes it easier for both genders to engage with behaviors that they may not otherwise engage in, if they were faced with an individual, making it easier for both genders to engage in cyber bullying behaviors; it’s like it’s simultaneously happening to both a real, and a not-real person.

Subsequently, victims of cyberbullying are also, mostly, equally spread amongst gender. There’s a slightly larger number of reported lifetime female cyber bully victims, but in general, victims are equally spread between male and female, especially amongst the middle school population. This suggests, once again, that the magic moment to reach the student population with cyber bullying education is at the beginning of middle school.

According to cyberbullying.org, middle schoolers use the Internet for a wide variety of purposes, and in descending order, it’s first and foremost for online games and homework, and lastly for chat rooms. Having data like this helps educators fine-tune education programs and gear bullying messages for their students based on what they know their students will be using and where they might be encountering bullying messages.

 Conclusion and Recommendations

Cyber bullying is part of a complex puzzle that, if reduced, improves student performance and success. But, we cannot forget things like the value of parental involvement, drug and alcohol education, other education on other teen behaviors that can affect student life, like sex education. For example, according to the CDC, for example, 10% of teens (over the age of 12) have used illicit drugs in the past month. And, it’s easy to forget, but many students come to school without having eaten a decent meal; in states like Missouri, over 20% of homes have food insecurity, not knowing where their next meal comes from. Alas, cyber bullying is a very important part of a student’s success, but it’s not the only piece of their puzzle.

And, in fact, determining the other pieces, and addressing those, may help suss out the cyber bullying problem. If a student is being bullied for being so-called promiscuous, for example; or, if a student is being bullied because he wears second-hand clothes; or, if a student is being bullied for getting bad grades; it’s obvious that knowing students is helpful. Additionally, having the appropriate district, counseling, and support services is vital to student success in all cases. There is no “stop bullying,” or even “zero tolerance,” in most cases. It is not as simple as enforcing a consequence, or mending a fence; it requires support for the victim, and likely for the bully.

Additionally, based on evidence, bullying education in primary and middle school grades is vital in prevention. As we become more screen-dependent, our children will be versed earlier in technology. Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics’ newly revised, and recently released, guidelines about screen time for young children, parents will continue to expose children to technology at younger ages, until they are practically programming satellites in the crib. If we are to expect our children to understand the limitless joy and knowledge that technology can bring, it is incumbent upon us to teach them the limitless responsibility that comes with it as well, including the responsibility they bear, as in all things, to not cause others pain.

 

 

50 Safest Colleges in America

When you go away to college or, better yet, send your child away for an advanced education, you want the peace of mind knowing that they are safe.  To that end, we’ve compiled a list of the 50 Safest Colleges in America.   The data to create this list was obtained from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, who keep statistics on campus crime.  Criteria for making this list were public and private 4-year universities in the U.S., with an enrollment of at least 5,000 students. Primarily online institutions were not included and most recent data available was for calendar years 2011-2013.

#1 Touro College

1263071345_684e61e00f_z

Established in 1970, this independent university of over 19,000 students in New York City, NY was named after Jewish leaders Judah and Isaac Touro.  The school offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs, and there were no on-campus crimes reported for Touro College.

#2 Northwest Florida State College

10299869784_0008a93590_z

With over 14,000 undergraduates enrolled, this state college in Niceville, FL is part of the Florida College System.  The 264-acre campus in the Ft. Walton Beach area of Florida’s Panhandle provides a variety of undergraduate degrees, and there were no on-campus crime incidents here.

#3 New York Institute of Technology

6150915974_b13c100db8_z

A private research university founded in 1955, NYIT is located in New York City, NY and its main Old Westbury campus encompasses over 1,000 acres.  With over 12,000 students, there were no on-campus crime incidents reported at NYIT.

#4 Bellevue University

16249525075_0125ab5fb8_z

Bellevue University is a private, non-profit university located in Bellevue, NE.  With an enrollment of over 10,000, the university has been operating since 1966 and is the 4th largest private college in Nebraska.  There were no on-campus crimes reported here.

#5 Saint Joseph’s College

13917982483_377c98b98e_z

Established in 1916, this private liberal arts college offers degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level in more than 25 areas.  Recognized repeatedly as among  “America’s Best Colleges” by U.S. News and World Report, the Brooklyn campus of over 5,000 students has no on-campus crimes reported.

#6 Hawaii Pacific University

5286375628_362bb3fc6e_z

Located in Honolulu, HI, this private co-ed university of over 7,000 students was established in 1965.  There was just one on-campus burglary reported during the study period.

#7 Franklin University

390459509_63e9e5dc54_z

A private university in Columbus, OH, Franklin University was originally founded in 1902 through a sponsorship by the Columbus YMCA.  Now with almost 8,000 students enrolled in its undergraduate and graduate programs, its main campus had just one burglary reported during the study period.

#8 Governors State University

16855345874_a12096c2fd_z

Governors State University is a public university located in University Park, Ill, south of Chicago.  GSU was founded in 1969 and, as of 2014, went from just an upper-level university to one that offers undergraduate through doctorate level degrees. There was only one on-campus crime reported involving a vehicle.

#9 Saint Johns River State College

7032640217_2e058323cd_z

St. Johns River State College is a member of the Florida College System and is located in Palatka, FL, on the state’s northeast coast.  The college has over 7,000 enrolled students and  is an accredited arts school.  There were just two on-campus crimes listed during the reporting period at this school.

#10 Colorado Christian University

19968857229_1c28a7e246_z

Colorado Christian University (CCU) is a private, interdenominational Christian liberal arts university of just over 5,000 students.  Located in Lakewood, CO, the school was founded in 1914 at the Denver Bible Institute and offers 45 degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate level.  There were only two on-campus incidents during the reporting period.

#11 Wilmington University

Located in historic New Castle, Delaware, this private non-profit university has an enrollment of over 20,000 students.  Many degree programs are offered in its seven colleges at the undergraduate and graduate level.  There were just three on-campus crimes reported at this school.

#12 Regent University

4291106876_4c6c959ef4_z

A private Christian university located in Virginia Beach, VA, Regent University was founded by Pat Robertson in 1977.  The university offers over 70 courses of study, including a School of Law and a School of Divinity.  There were three on-campus crimes reported at this university.

#13 University of Houston-Downtown

2932910224_2e7f691a94_z

UHD is a four-year state university in Houston, TX that is the second largest university in the Houston area.  The 14,000 students at UHD attend a 20 acre downtown campus, and UHD has been ranked by U.S. News and World Report as No. 7 among top public universities.  Four on-campus crimes were reported at UHD during the reporting period.

#14 CUNY Brooklyn College

8109855100_5110d7f3c3_z

With over 16,000 students, the senior college of the City University of New York in Brooklyn has been ranked multiple times by The Princeton Review as a top college for value.   This liberal arts college has five on-campus crimes reported during the period covered.

#15 University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

5279169264_a8a9624f0f_z

A member of the University System of Wisconsin, UW-La Crosse was founded in 1909 and offers over 100 degree programs in its five schools.  The school as over 10,00 students enrolled and had five on-campus crimes to report.

#16 Metropolitan State University

3200384765_407ee091ce_z

Also known as Metro State, this public university located in the Twin Cities of Minnesota has over 11,000 students enrolled.  There are over 70 degree programs at several academic levels. The school had six on-campus crimes reported.

#17 Indiana University-Southeast

6322088246_f83f1cccaa_z

Located in New Albany, Indiana, the Indiana University Southeast is a part of the Indiana University system and is located in the Louisville, KY metropolitan area.  There are over 55 degree programs at this school of 6,800 enrolled students.  Six on-campus crimes were reported at this school.

#18 University of Michigan-Dearborn

3812437828_5b98297fac_z

One of two satellite campuses of the University of Michigan, UM-Dearborn has over 9,000 students and offers over 100 degree programs.  In 2014, UM-D was ranked the 36th best university in the Midwest by U.S. News.  There were seven on-campus crimes reported here during the reporting period.

#19 College of Central Florida

8065916455_cc90331658_z

Located in Ocala, FL, this public state college is a member of the Florida College System and offers bachelor’s degrees in several areas.  With over 18,000 students enrolled, there were seven on-campus crimes reported here.

#20 University of California-Merced

6108254360_de7073e374_z

The tenth and newest of the University of California campuses, UC Merced, is located in Central California.  The campus owns over 7,000 acres of land and has a current enrollment of over 6,000 students pursuing a choice of 21 majors.  There were seven on-campus crimes reported here.

#21 Farmingdale State College

8200632357_8e6e924525_z

Located on Long Island in East Farmingdale, NY, Farmingdale State College is part of the SUNY system and is a public college of the State University of New York. With over 8,000 enrolled students, the schools offers 29 baccalaureate degrees, and there were just eight on-campus reported at this school.

 

#22 CUNY New York City College of Technology

11357100253_63115edcaf_z

Located in downtown Brooklyn’s City Triangle, City Tech has over 17,000 students enrolled in its 66 baccalaureate programs.  This public college had nine on-campus incidents reported.

#23 The New School

438188176_c32f2c2189_z

The New School is a private, non-profit progressive university located in Greenwich Village, New York City.   With over 9,000 students enrolled, the school has a rich history in its open and intellectual teaching environment.  The New School had just nine on-campus crimes reported.

#24 Duquesne University

14298157593_79dc709ed2_z

Duquesne University is private Catholic university located in Pittsburgh, PA.  Founded in 1878, the school now has over 10,000 students in its graduate and undergraduate programs.  There were just nine on-campus incidents reported here.

#25 Biola University

9702047427_0d2d5da63b_z

Originally founded in 1908 as the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, Biola University is a private, evangelical Christian, liberal arts school in southern California.  With just over 6,000 enrolled students, this university in La Mirada, CA had nine on-campus crimes reported.

#26 CUNY Bernard M Baruch College

4504468642_395164f007_z

The Baruch College of the City University of New York system is located in the Gramercy Park section of Manhattan in New York City.  With over 17,000 enrolled students, the school offers undergraduate, masters, and Ph.D. programs.  There were ten on-campus crimes reported here during the reporting period.

#27 Savannah College of Art and Design

5850118932_9e260aabd2_z

Located in Savannah, GA this private, non-profit university was founded in 1978 and has over 11,000 students enrolled in its eight schools. The school is ranked Number 1 for Interior Design by DesignIntelligence, and there were ten on-campus crimes reported at SCAD.

#28 New Jersey City University

15651765127_7d1255e0d9_z

A public university, NJCU is located in Jersey City, NJ and serves over 9,000 enrolled students in its three colleges, offering more than 65 degree programs.  Considered a liberal arts school, NJCU had eleven crimes reported on-campus.

#29 Lewis University

5330227280_94908369f0_z

A private Roman Catholic and Lasallian university located in Romeoville, Ill., Lewis University brings more than 80 undergraduate and 22 graduate programs to its 6,800 enrolled students.  There were eleven on-campus crimes reported here.

#30 Worcester Polytechnic Institute

7383434576_bc86475b52_z

A private research university, WPI is located in Worcester, Mass and is an applied sciences and technical arts school.  Founded in 1865, WPI was one of the United States’ first engineering and technology universities.  Just eleven on-campus crimes were reported here.

#31 University of Maryland-Baltimore

8040809501_c2b7343396_z

Founded in 1807, UMB is the original campus of the University System of Maryland has some of the oldest professional schools of dentistry, law, pharmacy, social work and nursing in the nation.  With over 6,000 enrolled students, there were eleven on-campus crimes reported here.

#32 Truman State University

9422059569_cf3356ac08_z

Located in Kirksville, Missouri Truman State University is a public liberal arts and sciences university with an enrollment of over 6,000 students.  The school offers 48 undergraduate and 9 graduate programs, and there eleven crimes reported on-campus.

#33 Colorado School of Mines

8347972436_11dfe85592_z

Located in Golden, CO, CSM a public teaching and research university devoted to engineering and applied sciences.  With an enrollment of 5,600 students, CSM was ranked 75th in U.S. News and World Report’s “Best National Universities” ranking. There were eleven on-campus crimes reported here.

#34 Indiana Wesleyan University

22103728189_12644727c7_z

Headquartered in Marion, Indiana, IWU is a private, evangelical Christian liberal arts university that is affiliated with the Wesleyan Church denomination. The largest private university in Indiana, there are over 15,000 students enrolled here and twelve on-campus crimes were reported at IWU.

#35 Michigan Technological University

3280698280_be6daea610_z

Also referred to as MTU or Michigan Tech, this is a public research university located in Houghton, Michigan.  Rated among the “Best in the Midwest” by The Princeton Review, there are over 7,000 students enrolled here, and just twelve on-campus crimes were reported.

#36 Worcester State University

4773052907_4a152448c0_z

Since 2010, this liberal arts and sciences school in Worcester, Mass has been a part of the state university system.   Now with an enrollment of over 6,000 students in its graduate and undergraduate programs, the school continues to grow and reported just twelve crimes on-campus.

#37 Chicago State University

21343704591_e028d80ee1_z

Located in Chicago, Ill., this state university was founded in 1867 and has an enrollment of over 7,000 students.  Its five colleges offer over 60 degree programs, and there were twelve crimes on-campus reported here.

#38 Missouri Baptist University

15975740372_c296f69847_z

Located in western St. Louis County in Creve Coeur, Missouri, Missouri Baptist University is a private evangelical university with an enrollment of just over 5,000 students.  Undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered in eight areas, and there were twelve on-campus crimes reported during the reporting period.

#39 University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

8481296716_ab184fddee_z

This public university in Steven Point, Wisconsin is part of the University of Wisconsin system and has an enrollment of over 9,000 students.  The school offers baccalaureate and master’s degrees in several areas and reported thirteen on-campus crimes.

#40 Indiana University-Northwest

461999916_e3b7915828_z

IU Northwest is located in Gary, Indiana and is a regional university campus in the Indiana University system.  Established in 1963, the school has over 6,300 enrolled students and reported thirteen crimes on-campus.

#41 College of Staten Island CUNY

6560390369_cd22eab4d9_z

With over 14,000, CSI is a four-year senior college in the City University of New York System, located on Staten Island, NY.   The school offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in liberal arts and sciences, and there were just fourteen on-campus crimes reported here.

#42 Winona State University

9097838582_5dfb2b7a1c_z

The oldest member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, WSU is a public university located in Winona, Minnesota.  With an enrollment of over 9,000 students, the school offers over 80 programs of study.  There were fourteen on-campus crimes reported at WSU.

#43 University of the Incarnate Word

10858079976_fe4795bb17_z

A private co-ed Catholic university located in San Antonio, TX, UIW was founded in 1881 and sits on a 154-acre campus.   There are over 9,900 students enrolled in this school that offers baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral degrees.  There were fourteen crimes reported on-campus at UIW.

#44 Suffolk University

4148847938_986a44052b_z

A private, non-sectarian university located in downtown Boston, Mass. Suffolk University has an enrollment of over 10,000 students, and some of its MBA programs are ranked among the top in the country.  Suffolk University had fourteen on-campus crimes during the reporting period.

#45 Dixie State University

13952335033_19132b31d0_z

A public university located in St. George, Utah, DSU has over 8.500 enrolled students and offers more than 150 academic programs.   There were just fourteen on-campus crimes reported at DSU.

#46 Northern Kentucky University

15667388569_6b4eb096ae_z

Located in Highland Heights, KY, just seven miles southeast of Cincinnati, NKU is a public, co-ed university that is primarily a liberal arts school.  With an enrollment of over 15,000 students, there were just fifteen on-campus crimes reported at NKU.

#47 The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

3673038913_4f9478bfa6_z

A public university in the New Jersey state system, Stockton University is located in Galloway Township, New Jersey and has an enrollment of over 8,500 students.  Stockton University had fifteen on-campus crime incidents during the reporting period.

#48 Adelphi University

2791619089_6b777d4da3_z

Located in Garden City, New York, Adelphi University is a private, nonsectarian university that is the oldest higher education institute on Long Island. With over 7,800 enrolled students, the school was ranked #153 among National Universities by U.S. News and World Report.  There were fifteen crimes reported on-campus at Adelphi University.

#49 University of Arkansas-Fort Smith

2235879684_2563065599_z

Also known as UAFS, this is a public university located in Fort Smith, Arkansas that is part of the University of Arkansas System.  UAFS is the fifth largest university in the state, with over 7,500 enrolled students and had fifteen on-campus crimes reported.

#50 University of New England

2098593519_d372302b8f_z

Located in Biddeford, Maine, UNE is an independent, non-profit university that was founded in 1831 and has over 8,000 enrolled students. UNE has the only medical school in the state of Maine and there were just fifteen crimes reported on campus here.

 

 

1 2 3 4