Bullying news: New form of bullying by e-mail on rise

Daily Yomiuri (Japan) A new form of bullying is rapidly spreading among middle and high school students in which bullies hide their identities by sending hate e-mail using the return e-mail addresses and names of other students whom the targets know.
Websites hotbeds of bullying / Half of student Internet bulletin boards contain abusive messages

About half of informal Internet school bulletin boards contain abusive messages to other students, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the Education, Science and Technology Ministry. The survey also found that 27 percent of the Web sites contained offensive, especially abusive or threatening, messages such as “drop dead”.
The ministry will inform teachers and students’ parents of the survey results on the so-called gakko ura sites, some of which have becomes hotbeds of bullying. It will encourage schools to improve their efforts to educate students on how to use Web sites appropriately.
Different from official Web sites run by school administrations, these sites are unofficial bulletin boards independently operated by students and alumni.
The ministry’s survey, conducted between January and March, confirmed 38,260 such sites in all 27 prefectures.
Among these sites, the ministry randomly chose about 2,000 bulletin boards of middle and high schools in Gunma. Shizuoka and Hyogo prefectures to get an idea of the content of messages posted on the sites.
The ministry found half of all the sites contained negative comments directed at individual students, such as referring to them as “disgusting” and claiming they were “getting on my nerves”.
Thirty-seven percent of the Web sites contained obscene language, while offensive, strongly abusive or threatening statements, such as “Drop dead,” “Get lost”, or “I’ll kill her/him,” were posted on 27 percent of the sites.
The ministry also conducted a questionnaire on about 2,400 middle and high school students in the three prefectures.
Of those, 1,522 responded with 33 percent of the students saying they are aware of the sites, while 23 percent said they had visited such sites. However only 3 percent said they had actually posted messages on the sites.
Asked why they visited the sites, 77 percent said they did so to kill time, while 14 percent said they used the sites to obtain information on school life.
(The Daily Yomiuri, April 16, 2008)

Prof designs online-bully detector
The Yomiuri Shimbun

A Gunma University professor has designed a computer system that checks Internet bulletin boards known as “Gakko Ura-sites,” which are run by school students,
and detects messages that could incite bullying or abusive behavior.
Prof. Hirotsugu Shimoda of the university’s Faculty of Social and Information Studies is to conduct further experiments into the practicality of the system.
In recent years, problems related to Gakko Ura-sites, informal notice boards bearing the names of affiliated high schools or middle schools, have come to
The bulletin boards are run by students to exchange information and make friends. However, they are sometimes misused to anonymously post abusive
messages and rumors regarding classmates.
Shimoda noticed that abusive language on such bulletin boards usually contains one or more of 35 particular words, such as “irritating,” “disgusting,” or “kill
yourself.” The computer system is designed to flag bulletin boards where such words frequently appear.
At the end of last year, Shimoda and the nonprofit organization Media Study Association investigated 182 informal Internet bulletin boards run by students
of schools in Gunma Prefecture.
Shimoda found that very few messages start off with personal attacks. Instead, most begin by discussing general topics, but unexpectedly veer toward insulting
a particular individual.
For example, one message began by asking who people thought was the most handsome boy at the school. However, after one person used the word “disgusting”
in a inoffensive context, another person responded by saying, “Talking of ’disgusting’ reminds me of…” and used the real name of the person he or she was referring to.
Shimoda believes these 35 common words are triggering students to head off in a dangerous direction. He said that by checking how often these words appear on
bulletin boards and examining their contexts, it is possible to measure the bulletin board’s degree of risk.
In the experiment, Shimoda will use three or four computer systems initially designed to pick up and organize useful information from the Internet.
If Shimoda detects potentially abusive messages, he will contact the school concerned and warn it of the potential danger. He hopes schools will take measures to prevent such bullying.
“Internet bulletin boards such as these are springing up all across the country–many with a high level of anonymity,” Shimoda said. “If society fails to take measures now, the situation will spiral beyond the control of parents and teachers.”
(Mar. 8, 2008) Yomiuri Shimbun

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