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(Graphic: Business Wire)

McAfee, part of Intel Security, today released findings from the company’s 2014 Teens and the Screen study: Exploring Online Privacy, Social Networking and Cyberbullying. The annual study examines the online behavior and social networking habits of U.S. preteens and teens. The most significant finding from this year’s study reveals that 87% of youth have witnessed cyberbullying versus last year when 27% of youth witnessed cruel behavior online . This behavior was perceived to result in anger and embarrassment, leading to a broader theme about how online behavior is impacting their offline lives. The study highlights how risky online activity can follow them offline and possibly make them even more susceptible to cyberbullying.

“Parents must discuss online activity with their children to better ensure their safety and security offline,” said Michelle Dennedy, chief privacy officer at McAfee. “Whether a child is a victim or an instigator of cruel behavior such as cyberbullying, the negative behavior can deeply affect their identity and their reputation.”

Cyberbullying

Despite significant efforts to discourage cyberbullying, and its negative effects, the number of occurrences continues to grow with 87% of youth having witnessed cyberbullying. Of those who responded they were cyberbullied, 72% responded it was due to appearance while 26% answered due to race or religion and 22% stated their sexuality was the driving factor. Of those who witnessed cyberbullying, 53% responded the victims became defensive or angry while 47% said the victims deleted their social media accounts, underscoring its significant emotional impact. While the study reveals cyberbullying continues to represent a serious problem for youth, the 2014 survey found 24% of youth would not know what to do if they were harassed or bullied online.

Online Conflict Driving Offline Consequences

Unfortunately, the negative experience of cyberbullying does not only exist online. Social networks are causing a majority of U.S. adolescents to experience negative situations that ultimately lead to offline arguments. The study found 50% of youth have been involved in an argument because of something posted on social media, a 51% increase from last year’s result, which found only 33% had been involved in an argument. Four percent of young adults stated the original online altercation led to a physical fight.

Not So Private Lives

In addition to oversharing feelings, youth also overshare what would be considered private information publicly, both intentionally and unintentionally. Only 61% of youth have enabled the privacy settings on their social networking profiles to protect their content, and 52% do not turn off their location or GPS services across apps, leaving their locations visible to strangers. Additionally, 14% have posted their home addresses online – a 27% increase from last year’s results.

“By uncovering our youth’s online behavior activities, parents, guardians, teachers and coaches can be more aware of cruel behavior that can potentially take place offline,” continued Dennedy. “As a result of closely monitoring online activities, hopefully we all can do our part to provide appropriate assistance and help eradicate cyberbullying.”

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