LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Bullying has always been a problem kids deal with, but with social media the issue has exploded. The hurtful comments and public shaming is more than what many adults had to deal with when we were young. While much of what kids do online is harmless, a new study found that 87 percent of them have witnessed cyber-bullying, three times the percentage reported in 2013.
With students are on summer break they have more time to be on the internet. Abby Johnston admits she spends a lot of time on social media.
"Twitter, Instragram, Facebook, Snapchat, pretty much all of them," said Johnston.
What she likes, is the ability to stay connected to friends and what's going on at school, but a new study by the internet security company McAfee revealed some troubling statistics about what kids are exposed to on social media. The study called "Teens and the Screen" showed more kids are using technology to bully one another.
"What happens in the digital world is as important as what goes on in the physical world," said McAfee online security expert Robert Siciliano.
Siciliano said parents who think the social media world is something they just can't wrap their mind around need to get over that belief.
"Think about it like this, you would not give your kids the keys to the car until you knew they were safe and secure to drive," said Siciliano. "But, parents are giving their kids access to the web and digital devices and the parents themselves don't know enough about the technology to do so."
According to the study, 22 percent of kids said they were bullied because of their sexuality, 26 percent said it was their race or religion and 72 percent said it stemmed from their looks.
"Really about physical appearance you know," said Johnston. "Like saying 'oh you're fat' or 'you are ugly.' It's really sad. Especially instragram all it is is pictures."
Because it's easy to hide behind a keyboard, bullying is now easier than ever.
"When you type it you can't necessarily see that person hurting," said Johnston.
In addition to oversharing feelings, youth also overshare what would be considered private information publicly, both intentionally and unintentionally. Only 61 percent of youth have enabled the privacy settings on their social networking profiles to protect their content, and 52 percent do not turn off their location or GPS services across apps, leaving their locations visible to strangers. Additionally, 14 percent have posted their home addresses online - a 27 percent increase from last year's results.
Top 5 Tips for Parents to Help Educate Their Kids:
1. Connect with your kids - Casually talk to them about the risks of all online connections and make sure the communication lines are open.
2. Gain access - Parents should have passwords for their children's social media accounts and passcodes to their children's devices to have full access at any given moment.
3. Learn their technology - Stay one step ahead and take the time to research the various devices your kids use. You want to know more about their devices than they do.
4. Get social - Stay knowledgeable about the newest and latest social networks. You don't have to create an account but it is important to understand how they work and if your kids are on them.
5. Reputation management - Make sure your kids are aware anything they post online does not have an expiration date.
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