Facebook announced Thursday it will launch a new campaign to combat cyberbullying, in a partnership with the state of Maryland, where the company will begin a pilot program.
The new program will give school teachers and staff a streamlined channel to report potential cyberbullying incidents on Facebook, according to an announcement from Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler. Each school system will have one point person who deals directly with Facebook to resolve any questionable activity that is not resolved through Facebook's standard reporting system within 24 hours, through the site's "Educator Escalation Channel."
"Too often, we read headlines about cyberbullying that inflicts serious emotional trauma on children, or worse yet, ends in tragedy," Gansler said in a statement. "We can no longer brush off these episodes and we must reject a 'kids will be kids' mentality that ignores how to confront this troubling trend."
Nationwide, 28 percent of middle and high school students experience some type of bullying, according to PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center. But the majority of students who said they were bullied did not report it.
The CDC reports that victims of bullying can suffer from long-term physical and psychological effects, including an increased risk of depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties and poor school adjustment. Likewise, kids and teens who bully others are at a higher risk for substance abuse, academic problems, and violence later in life.
And a recent analysis on bullying data conducted by researchers at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York found that the prevalence of cyberbullying is nearly as serious as bullying overall. The study found that one in six high school students are victims of cyberbullying each year, and that the problem is likely to advance as computers, smartphones and other technologies become more accessible to youth.
In fact, a 2011 Consumer Reports survey found that 1 million children reported being victims of cyberbullying on Facebook in 2011.
"Although teenagers generally embrace being connected to the Web and each other 24/7, we must recognize that these new technologies carry with them the potential to traumatize youth in new and different ways," said Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center, in a statement.