EDUCATION

College gossip websites may have dangerous effects on students

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College students and their parents are alerted to be careful when using the growing number of college gossip websites. The sites often allow students to be anonymous.

The dangerous downside some are worried about is that this could drive some students to suicide.

A freshman at George Mason University says she has two different identities: her real identity as a hardworking student and dancer, and the one that was fabricated online by her fellow classmates.

“They made comments about my personal life, relationships that I actually don't have. They were basically making up lies,” she said. She asked ABC7 not to use her name so as not to draw further attention to the issue in the future.

She says she's been targeted and harassed on the popular gossip site collegeacb.com several times. She briefly contemplated transferring schools.

“It was very upsetting,” she said. She's not alone. The site is full of anonymous threads like one titled "sluts.discuss.” In another posting, a female student is labeled "gargantuan fat,” and in a disturbing post a student discusses thoughts of suicide.

"One of the tragic parts of this is kids often think that cyber-bullying is funny,” said Ann Harkins, CEO of the National Crime Prevention Center. “When in fact we've seen tragic instances of drug use, drop in grades and even teen suicide."

Harkins says young adults age 18 to 24 are especially vulnerable to cyber-bulling.

“Once the victim is under stress he or she may have a more dramatic … response than someone even five years older might," she said.

GMU students interviewed by ABC7 agree the site can go too far, but say they choose to ignore it. Freshman Tonya Antonacci says she's chosen to stop looking at the site and she recommends the same for others.

“Don't look at it,” she said. “All it does is hurt you and hurt your self esteem.”

Collegeabc says it doesn't endorse personal attacks, but it's important to allow anonymity on the site so that students can be authentic and honest in their discussions. Depending on the nature of the threads, they can be deleted within one to two days.

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