Sexual Harassment By Peers Is Pervasive In Grades 7 – 12

A new survey conducted by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) has found that nearly half of kids in grades 7-12 have been subjected to some form of student-to-student sexual harassment. And it affects both genders: 56% of girls reported at least one incident, as did 40% of boys. 

The survey included both in-person harassment (for example, inappropriate touching or name calling) as well as electronic harassment (texting, email, social media). While both forms need to be addressed, I’m focusing on the new challenges posed by technology. Any electronic medium is prone to misuse by kids simply because it is readily available. As any parent knows, tweens and teens wrestle with complex emotions that can become intense in the moment. Having a cell phone at hand provides the potential for an immediate inappropriate release of anger, resentment, or other similar feelings, especially at an age when emotional regulation is not all that easy to achieve. And as more kids – and younger kids – have access to mobile technology, it very well may be that we will see increases in electronic harassment sometime in the near future.

Technology does not cause problems. Kids have always had challenges in their peer world. Sexual harassment is one of them. My concern is that mobile devices and computers close at hand open up new ways of badly handling old issues and escalating the likelihood of behaviors such as harassment. There is a profound need for parents to monitor their kids use of technology – both what they send out, and what they receive. Without doing that, parents may be out of touch with things that are happening with increasing frequency in the peer world.

Image by Rosen Georgiev courtesy of

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  1. by Lucy

    On November 10, 2011 at 12:25 am

    This article makes me remember an argument that I was having with my mom, just this very afternoon, on all the various reasons why I can’t have a cell phone until high school. I think that a lot of kids swear to their parents, and to themselves, that they won’t make any of the same mistakes they read about in the newspaper, or see on the news. But for all they know, those people could have sworn the same thing. All it takes is one accidental click, and your a nation wide phenomenon.