"I was just so afraid of people," says Turley, explaining why he went to different middle schools each year in sixth, seventh and eighth grade. He stayed quiet through most of it, barely speaking to other students.
Fighting back by speaking out
Turley started slowly merging back into "peopleness" in eighth grade when he started putting video diaries on YouTube. Soon, other students were asking him to help them film school project videos, track meets and other video projects.
In high school, Turley discovered an organization called WeStopHate.org, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping people who have been bullied and allow them a safe space to share their stories.
Emily-Anne Rigal, the founder of the organization, experienced bullying in elementary school, getting picked on for her weight. Although she and Turley lived on opposite sides of the country, they became friends online, united by their passion for stopping bullying.
WeStopHate.org has achieved a wide reach. Rigal has received all sorts of honors for her efforts, from the Presidential Volunteer Service Award to a TeenNick HALO Award presented by Lady Gaga.
Turley designed the WeStopHate.org website and most of its graphics, and is actively involved in the organization. In additional to Rigal, he has many other friends in different states whom he's met over the Internet.
"I got cyberbullied, and I feel like, with that, it made me think, like, well, there has to be somebody on the Internet who doesn't hate me," he said. "That kind of just made me search more."
Ashley Berry, 13, of Littleton, Colo., has also experienced unpleasantness with peers online. When she was 11, a classmate of hers took photos of Ashley and created an entire Facebook page about her, but denied doing it when Ashley confronted the student whom she suspected.
"It had things like where I went to school, and where my family was from and my birthday, and there were no security settings at all, so it was pretty scary," she said.
The page itself didn't do any harm or say mean things, Ashley said. But her mother, Anna Berry, was concerned about the breach of privacy, and viewed it in the context of what else was happening to her daughter in school: Friends were uninviting her to birthday parties and leaving her at the lunch table.
"You would see a girl who should be on top of the world coming home and just closing herself into her bedroom," Berry said.
Berry had to get police involved to have the Facebook page taken down. For seventh grade, her current year, Ashley entered a different middle school than the one her previous school naturally fed into. She says she's a lot happier now, and does media interviews speaking out against bullying.
These days, Berry has strict rules for her daughter's online behavior. She knows Ashley's passwords, and she's connected with her daughter on every social network that the teen has joined (except Instagram, but Ashley has an aunt there). Ashley won't accept "friend" requests from anyone she doesn't know.
Technical solutions to technical problems
Parents, extended relatives, Internet service providers and technology providers can all be incorporated in thinking about how children use technology, Holt said.
Apps that control how much time children spend online, and other easy-to-use parental control devices, may help, Holt said. There could also be apps to enable parents to better protect their children from certain content and help them report bullying.
Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working on an even more automated solution. They want to set up a system that would give bullying victims coping strategies, encourage potential bullies to stop and think before posting something offensive, and allow onlookers to defend victims, said Henry Lieberman.
Lieberman's students Birago Jones and Karthik Dinakar are working on an algorithm that would automatically detect bullying language. The research group has broken down the sorts of offensive statements that commonly get made, grouping them into categories such as racial/ethnic slurs, intelligence insults, sexuality accusations and social acceptance/rejection.
While it's not all of the potential bullying statements that could be made online, MIT Media Lab scientists have a knowledge base of about 1 million statements. They've thought about how some sentences, such as "you look great in lipstick and a dress," can become offensive if delivered to males specifically.
The idea is that if someone tries to post an offensive statement, the potential bully would receive a message such as "Are you sure you want to send this?" and some educational material about bullying may pop up. Lieberman does not want to automatically ban people, however.
"If they reflect on their behavior, and they read about the experience of others, many kids will talk themselves out of it," he said.
Lieberman and colleagues are using their machine learning techniques on the MTV-partnered website "A Thin Line," where anyone can write in their stories of cyberbullying, read about different forms of online disrespect, and find resources for getting help. The researchers' algorithm tries to detect the theme or topic of each story, and match it to other similar stories. They're finding that the top theme is sexting, Lieberman said.
"We're trying to find social network sites that want to partner with us, so we can get more of this stuff out into the real world," Lieberman said.