Report: Maine worst in the nation for student bullying online

Two students use laptops in the gym at Piscataquis Community High School in Guilford. (BDN file photo)

Two students use laptops in the gym at Piscataquis Community High School in Guilford. (BDN file photo)

The finance site WalletHub has gotten into the business of data analysis and comparison — usually with an angle toward the financial ramifications of any number of good or bad societal trends.

This week, the website released its findings on the best and worst states for controlling school bullying, using information about things like student depression, truancy and reported bullying activity from sources like the U.S. Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, StopBullying.gov, the National Education Association and others.

An important note: of all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., eight didn’t report enough information about these things to be included in the evaluation. That means the study size was down to 43 states, and some biggies were left out, like California, Colorado and Pennsylvania.

But Maine was included, and dishearteningly, showed the highest percentage of high school students experiencing online bullying of any of the states recorded.

While the WalletHub post offered a series of easily digestible charts and graphics showing various results of the site’s research, it doesn’t obviously provide data to back up the rankings specifically.

So while it wasn’t listed as WalletHub source material, I turned to the most recent results of the biennial Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey I could find to get a sense of Maine’s online bullying problem.

According to the survey — which has been circulated every two years since 2009 and is most often cited in reference to results on teen smoking and drug use — nearly 26 percent of Maine female high school students say they’ve been bullied through electronic means, such as e-mails or social media.

WalletHub.com

WalletHub.com

Another 14 percent or so of male high school students report online bullying, rounding out for an average across both males and females of just less than 20 percent.

The older the high schoolers get, the statistically less likely they seem to engage in online bullying — 21.6 percent of freshmen and sophomores reported being victims of electronic bullying, while that number drops to 16.4 percent by the time they’re seniors.

If you look at the WalletHub graphic above, you’ll see that four of the five states with the highest percentage of online high school bullying are rural, sparsely populated states, perhaps drawing a correlation between more isolated homesteads and increased Internet interaction.

(For comparison, the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey found approximately the same percentage of high school females reporting being bullied at school, with the males reporting in-person bullying at a higher rate of 22.4 percent.)

While the online bullying was determined by WalletHub to be particularly bad in Maine, the state tied with Nebraska for second in terms of lowest percentages of high schoolers who reported being in physical fights, just behind No 1 Massachusetts.

In an overall ranking that factored in a range of bullying numbers, as well as the aforementioned truancy and mental health information, among other criteria, WalletHub dropped Maine down to 28th place out of the 43 states in terms of controlling school bullying.

The Pine Tree State was ranked a promising seventh in terms of “bullying environment and impact,” but 30th “bullying prevalence.”

Read the entire WalletHub post by clicking here.

A high school student uses his Apple laptop in Orono in this 2013 file photo. (BDN photo by Carter F. McCall)

A high school student uses his Apple laptop in Orono in this 2013 file photo. (BDN photo by Carter F. McCall)