A new study of what types of tweets people are sending shows that there are over 100,000 insulting, teasing, and otherwise nasty tweets sent on the network every week. Bullying is a problem for many children on the school yard, and it has crept into their digital worlds as well. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin in Madison created a computer program to analyze tweets for their content and sentiment in order to determine how many of them were bully-related.

The program identified certain keywords as being related to bullying, such as “kicked”, “called”, “mean” and “suicide”, and ranked them, along with emoticons, to automatically tag tweets as bully-related or not. Researchers say that they were able to identify the typical roles in a bullying encounter on Twitter, such as the bully, victim, accuser and defender, but that they also identified a new role: the reporter. This is a child who witnessed bullying but didn’t participate in any way. This raises questions of why children are not speaking up about bullying to adults in their lives, instead turning to 140-character observations.

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