Man on computer 390.
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
There has been a sharp increase over the past year in the number of teens
experiencing physical, sexual and verbal attacks via the Internet and social
networking sites, according to the annual report released Tuesday by the
nonprofit organization Elem, which helps youths at risk through a variety of
Based on interviews with more than 30,000 youths who
were counseled or assisted by the organization in 2011 and on the eyewitness
testimonies of thousands of volunteers that operate the charity’s outreach
programs in 40 cities and towns countrywide, the annual report pointed to two
alarming phenomena: the increase in cyber-bullying and the falling age of teens
turning to the organization for assistance.
Elem’s executive director
Efrat Shaprut said that due to new processes of social interactions using new
technology, children have no choice but to grow up faster than ever
“Youths experience exposure to problems and issues that, in the
past, used to only happen to older teenagers and this means that boys and girls
find themselves in situations without the right tools to cope, intensifying
their sense of distress,” she explained.
According to the report, which
was presented directly to President Shimon Peres on Wednesday night, there was
an 18-percent rise in reports of verbal, sexual and physical abuse caused via
interactions on social networking sites. The organization noted that this, in
part, was due to the widerthan- ever availability of mobile devices allowing for
access to the Internet, even for youth at risk out wandering the
“This trend brings together a variety of old and new problems
that now take place together in cyberspace,” said Shaprut, adding that because
online interactions happen in a closed arena, parents are often excluded from
The report also noted a 50% rise in the number of children
under 14 being counseled by the charity. In 2011, youths under 14 seen by Elem
constituted 12% of the total number of teenagers that received
In addition, the report showed that in 2011 some 328 youths
under the age of 12 also sought support or treatment from the charity, compared
to only 76 in 2010.
YELEM, the organization’s online portal, showed that
14% of all the requests for advice or assistance came from those aged
Elem’s president Navah Barak said that social networking forums
posed a dangerous threat to teenagers, especially youth at risk who are not
typically able to confide in the adults in their lives.
witnessing a dangerous phenomena, which in the past was expressed only on the
street, becoming much more common because of the Internet and is putting more
youths at risk,” said Barak, pointing out that because of such online forums,
problems such social boycotting, bullying, verbal and sexual abuse, suicidal
tendencies, gambling and prostitution are more intense.