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Survey Shows Cyberbullying, ‘Risk Behavior’ Rates Of County Students

By Aaron Kraut

Friday - 7/18/2014, 2:25pm  ET

Image via MCPSNearly as many MCPS students reported being cyberbullied as opposed to bullied on school property, according to a state survey done in spring 2013 that delves into a number of “youth risk behaviors.”

The recently released 2013 Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey Report is conducted every two years in Maryland classrooms to get a sense of student nutritional habits, whether high school- and middle school-aged kids use drugs and alcohol, if they text or email while driving and a host of other risky behaviors.

The 2013 report found that 14.1 percent of 4,096 Montgomery County high school students surveyed said they have been “electronically bullied” during the past year. That’s nearly identical to the 14 percent of students statewide who said they had been electronically bullied.

In Montgomery County, 18.9 percent of the high school students surveyed said they had been bullied on school property during the past year.

Both the statewide and Montgomery County data showed significant disparities in the cyberbullying rates for males and females, with 17 percent of female survey-takers in MCPS responding yes. Eleven percent of male survey takers in Montgomery County said they had been cyberbullied.

In a similar 2012-2013 study in Fairfax County, 11.9 percent of students reported having been cyberbullied in the past year by a student at their school, with female students nearly twice as likely to report being cyberbullied.

MCPS has started a Cybercivility Task Force to “develop strategies to encourage healthy online decisions/behaviors by students and adults and create/evaluate tools that schools, parents, students and community members can use to foster a culture of cybercivility.”

The move has its roots in a series of allegedly inappropriate tweets sent to MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr from students last winter. The students wanted to get the school day off because of winter weather. Starr wrote an open letter to MCPS parents encouraging them to be aware of what their children were doing on internet social networks.

The rate of students who said they were cyberbullied in the 2013 survey was consistent with the 2011 survey.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey also asked how many students who drove a car during the past 30 days texted or emailed while driving. A little more than 31 percent of MCPS students and 33.1 percent of students statewide responded they had.

Other questions zeroed in on alcohol and drug use, sexual behaviors and feelings of sadness or hopelessness — 26.9 percent of Montgomery County high school students responded they felt so sad or hopeless “almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities,” over the past year.

Ahead of new, federally mandated nutrition standards starting this month in school cafeterias, 24.3 percent of Montgomery County students said they had eaten fruits and vegetables five or more times per day during the past week. The statewide response rate on that question was 20.1 percent.

The entire 2013 Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey Report and summary can be found here.

Image via MCPS