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Study: Doctors devoting more time to computers than patients

For every hour that some doctors devote to direct patient care they may spend about five hours on other tasks, often because they’re tied up with computer work, a new study suggests.

The results are based on observations of just 36 doctors-in-training at one hospital in Switzerland. But research dating back more than half a century has documented physicians dedicating a similar amount of their workdays to direct patient care, said Dr. Nathalie Wenger, lead author of the current study.

“It has not really changed in 50 years,” Wenger, a researcher at the University Hospital of Lausanne, said by email.

During the study period, the doctors spent an average of 1.7 hours per shift with patients, 5.2 hours using computers and 13 minutes doing both, Wenger and colleagues report in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Patient care might not necessarily be better if doctors had less screen time, but cutting back could still have some advantages, Wenger said.

“It will clearly improve satisfaction of physicians, reduce their stress and improve medical education by freeing up time for that,” Wenger said.

For the current study, Wenger and colleagues observed medical residents for a total of about 698 hours.

Teams of observers recorded the residents’ activities throughout their shifts at the hospital, sorting tasks into one of 22 different categories such as direct or indirect patient care, communication, academic or nonmedical work.

Day shifts typically lasted 11.6 hours, or 1.6 hours longer than scheduled, the study found.

During day shifts, doctors spent about 52 percent of their time on activities indirectly related to patients such as writing in medical records, collaborating with other clinicians, looking for information needed to treat patients and handing off care to other providers.

Physicians spent about 28 percent of their day shifts on direct patient care including clinical exams and medical procedures and rounds done as part of the residency program to review treatment with colleagues.

They spent only about 2 percent of their time communicating with patients and families, and about 6 percent of their time either teaching, receiving training or doing academic research.

During shifts, physicians spent up to about 45 percent of their time on computers, the study found.

Beyond its small size and single site, other limitations of the study include the fact that residents knew they were being observed and may have adjusted their work accordingly, the authors note.

It also wasn’t an experiment designed to prove how different uses of physician time influence patient outcomes.

Still, the findings add to a growing body of research documenting how much of doctors’ time is taken up by administrative tasks, said Dr. Susan Thompson Hingle, a researcher at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield who wasn’t involved in the study.

“Having observed residents and talked with residents, I do not think the findings are unique to the Swiss,” Hingle said by email. “It seems as though the studies continue to confirm the enormous administrative tasks that physicians and physicians in training, regardless of level, clinical venue, or geographic location, are faced with.”

Patients often complain that doctors don’t spend enough time with them and that physicians spend more time focused on the computer than on them, Hingle said.

“When our attention is not on the patient, we miss important non-verbal cues; we are distracted and not actively listening; we miss opportunities to build a trusting, healing relationship with our patient,” Hingle added. “Without that trust, patient adherence is less which impacts patient outcomes, and patient satisfaction is less, which also impacts patient outcomes.”

Belgium tourist boards latch on to cat craze on social media

Belgium’s tourist boards have latched onto a social media craze of cats that gave Brussels light relief during a tense five-day security lockdown in the wake of militant attacks in Paris.

Images of the city’s streets deserted as security forces hunted suspected Islamist militants have dealt a blow to Belgium’s tourism industry, with hotels reporting many cancellations.

When police on Sunday asked the public in Brussels not to share details of their operations on social media, Belgians took to tweeting each other pictures of their cats.

Capitalizing on the social media hit, Belgium’s three tourist authorities have now released a 20 second video film showing cats at Brussels’s landmarks such as the historic Grand Place or the Atomium, which they said was filmed at the height of the lockdown.

The video depicts cats dancing all over the city, some wearing black bowler hats or with green apples in front of their faces in a nod to paintings of the Belgian surrealist painter Rene Magritte.

In the background, a saxophone is heard, an invention of the Belgian Adolphe Sax. The original trend drew a warm response on social media, and the tourist authorities said they wanted to show how proud they were of Brussels and its residents for their good-humored response to the crisis.

Belgium’s capital has been on maximum alert since Saturday over the threat of a possible Paris-style attack. A coordinated assault in which 130 people were killed in Paris on Nov. 13 was claimed by Islamic State.

Brussels, home to the European Commission, reopened its metro system and schools on Wednesday, albeit with armed police and soldiers still patrolling.

“Tourism Flanders, Visit Brussels and Wallonia-Brussels Tourism are proud of the people of Brussels and wanted to give them an extra boost,” they said. “Their winking cats evoked great sympathy at home and abroad.”

On the Web…


Comedian Jen Kirkman is feeling fine. Promise.

In the opening of her Netflix special, I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine), comedian, author and podcaster Jen Kirkman tells a story about overhearing someone ordering a drink and slowly realizing that person cannot tell the difference between a lemon and a lime. It’s like she’s a dear friend venting her frustrations with the world already, and it’s only been a few minutes.

That’s the brilliance of the special. Recorded shortly after her 40th birthday and the release of her successful memoir I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids, the Netflix special shows us what Kirkman’s best at: autobiographical and shameless banter about the various elements of her kidless, post-divorce life — from being an unintentional cougar to finding gray pubic hairs.

In addition to her Netflix special and book, Kirkman is known for her appearances as a panelist and writer for Chelsea Lately and a narrator for the Comedy Central series Drunk History (and the original Funny or Die webseries). She’s also recorded two comedy albums — 2006’s Self Help and 2011’s Hail to the Freaks — and is the host of the I Seem Fun podcast, which largely consists of her speaking about whatever is on her mind while sitting around her home.

Kirkman is on a nationwide tour, which includes a stop at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom on Sept. 9.

She spoke with WiG about her special, her comedic approach, dying alone, the chances of her own TV show and her amusing idea of an Uber horse. 

You’re on tour to promote your Netflix special, I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine). A Netflix special is a pretty big deal. How did that come about? 

It is. Thank you. I’m really just on tour because that’s what I do for a living. I think I sound stupid when I say I’m on tour to promote it like as if Netflix needs my help (laughs). They got the advertising dollars and they’re obviously in everybody’s home. 

Actually, to be honest, I’ve never wanted to do a comedy special. I preferred albums for a long time. I didn’t like putting my physical self on tape. I don’t like looking at my mannerisms. I don’t like the idea of having to pick an outfit that’s going to live on for years on TV that might look dated in a few years. I was always fine not doing one. 

Over the years, the only available option to comedians before HBO and Showtime was Comedy Central, who I didn’t want to work with because I don’t believe in editing or having commercial breaks in comedy. I think it’s not a good way to present it. So I was fine not having a comedy special, but then when Netflix started doing them, I thought that seemed like a good place to do it. I knew this woman who worked there and she made it kind of known that she’d like to do one with me. We just kept pursuing it. It was actually in the works for like a year before I was able to film it. So I was really excited, but I couldn’t say anything. 

During your Netflix special, rather than cutting away to the audience every few minutes for reaction shots, the camera stays on you while you go from topic to topic, making it more like you’re ranting to a group of friends about topics that are both hilarious and relatable. Was this something that you were always comfortable with from the get-go? 

It’s funny because I get called a storyteller comedian, which I don’t totally think is true because real storytellers are doing off-Broadway shows and there aren’t laughs for 10 minutes. I’ve always thought what I’ve been doing is normal comedy like anybody else. I think the way I perform it makes it look like I’m talking off the top of my head or telling a story, which I think is a skill I’ve honed over the years. I feel like if you measure out my laughs per minute, even to a one-liner comic, it’d be the same. 

I purposely chose not to have any cutaway shuts and the person who directed my special, Lance Bangs, I believe he really doesn’t like that either. I feel like you can edit without having to cut to the audience. You can cut to a different camera angle on a person. I also don’t think the audience at home needs to be told when they should laugh because you can decide that for yourself. Not every joke is going to hit home with everybody, so laugh when you want. When they cut to a group of people going, “Ah ha ha!”, it’s like, “Don’t tell me when to laugh.” (laughs) When you go see a comedy show, you’re just looking at the person. I don’t know anybody who would want to turn on the TV and see the audience. It never looks real, either. It looks like it’s inserted from a different show. 

What’s really funny, though, is some people who have hated my special … have commented that I put a laugh track in because … no one was laughing. I thought that was kind of funny that people have noticed that and people thought it was for tragic reasons (laughs). 

What is the inspiration behind the title? You don’t actually feel like you’re going to die alone, do you? 

I think everybody does. People have taken it to mean it’s about dating, which is really weird because obviously I’ve been single, I’ve been married, I’ve been engaged, I’ve been divorced, I’ve been in a relationship and I’ve been with friends with benefits. I’ve had every iteration of dating in my life, and always will probably, but the special was not about being single. It’s actually what I’ve wanted to call my first book. It’s things people have said to me about not having kids. It’s what people said to me: “You’re going to die alone if you don’t have kids.” My answer to them is, “Fine. I’m going to die alone and I’ll be fine.” 

… If you die, you die alone anyways, even if you’re in a bed next to someone. It’s your own journey. We all really do die alone. You can be as suited up as you want. You can be married with kids and think, “Oh, look at how great my life is going to be when I’m older.” But you really don’t know if anybody is still going to be around. Unfortunately, most people take it to mean I’m lamenting some kind of not-being-married thing. I usually get people consoling me and I’m like, “It is a comedy title.” When I said what the name of the special was, a few people on Twitter were like, “Aw, you won’t die alone. You’re cute.” I’m like, “Ugh. Forget it.” 

From show to show, do you strive to bring new material that audiences haven’t heard before to the stage? 

This tour is not material from the special because the special was stuff that I’ve done on the road for three years. The cities I’ve been to, where people have seen me over the past three years, they’ve already seen that stuff. For them, watching the special was a repeat of what they’ve seen live. There’s no getting away with doing old stuff anymore. This tour is all new stuff, with one or two bits from the special because I do think that one of the bits from the special was pretty new. The joke is about a gray pubic hair. So I’ll keep growing and growing with that premise, as I get older and things continue to break down in my body or change (laughs). That one will probably live on. 

There is one joke about a woman who marries a cat that has become sort of relevant again, now that we have marriage equality but (there are) senators who are still saying the bestiality thing, so I’ll keep that in. I think people do remember that from the special, but for some reason I think it’s such a silly, dumb bit that I think people like it and I’ve actually had people say, “I came to your show and I brought my friend who didn’t know you and I was telling her about your stuff and I’m glad you did some of the jokes that I told her.” 

For the most part, I don’t think people want to see what they’ve already seen because it’s hard to laugh when you know it’s coming. Halfway through my tour, I just changed the name of it to “An Evening with Jen Kirkman” and not the name of the special because people were telling me, “If it’s your special, then I’m not going to come because I’ve already seen it.” Which is stupid anyway, because even if it’s the exact same thing, it’s always different live. 

I’ve read recently that you’re working on your second book. Will this be a direct follow-up to I Can Barely Take Care of Myself or will this be something entirely different?

It’s pretty similar. I mean, it’s not similar, but it’s a pretty direct follow-up. I kind of knew when I was writing the first one that I wanted to write a second one. I knew some of the stuff that I wanted to write about and as the years went by, I lived a little and had more experiences so it’s the same thing, like a memoir-style, comedic essays, but it jumps around topics a lot more than I Can Barely Take Care of Myself, which was really about not wanting kids and all that stuff. This is all different kind of things about traveling, family, divorcing, work and stupid things like my neighbor who won’t stop knocking on my door. 

That’s coming out in April of next year. It’s pretty much written. There’s just a couple of edits here and there that have to be done. I think people will like it because it does cover so many different topics, so there’s something for everyone. A lot of the stuff in the podcast will be in the book, but better with a lot less rambling. There’ll be complete sentences. 

When it comes to shows about comedians on television, all the rage right now is about Louie C.K. and Marc Maron (who star in and produce their own shows). I’d personally love to see you have your own show where you’re not only the star, but you’re also the writer, producer, director, etc. Do you think the chances are high of seeing such a thing happen? Better yet, would you want such a thing to happen? 

I tried. It was passed on by over 20 networks. FX bought a show called Jen that was going to be like a Maron or a Louie. They bought it, I wrote the pilot, and they paid me to write the script but it just didn’t get picked up into a pilot. 

Most comedians that you know or like, our agents would dump us if we didn’t try to pitch a show about our lives because that’s how they make their money if we get a TV gig. That’s part of being a comedian on the road. You pitch TV shows. All of us pitch multiple shows a year and all the different levels you can get to are: someone pays you to write a script, and then after that they could pick it up and make a pilot, but the pilot doesn’t go to series. There’s like six levels of all that crap. We do it all the time under the radar; nobody knows. The odds are just so insanely crazy. 

It’s nothing that like breaks our hearts because we always have stand-up, which is what we want to do first and foremost. I think most of us would say that the only reason we’d want a TV show is so that more people can come see us on the road. I tried, but I’m glad it didn’t get made for many reasons that are boring. I wasn’t working on it with the right people and I don’t like the show that I wrote anymore so I’m fine with that. 

I’ve worked in TV shows my whole life and it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. It’s a lot of work. There’s a lot of politics. There’s a lot of crap you don’t have to deal with in stand-up. 

So, I was Twitter-stalking you earlier, and I read your prediction of an Uber Horse being the next big thing in transportation. Can you please elaborate? 

I’ve gotten picked up in an Uber in Canada with a huge dent on the side, and I was like, “Hmm, that doesn’t make me feel that confident.” It’s like you’re hitchhiking. I’m really just getting into a stranger’s car. … Uber Horse was just a joke, but it’s getting to the point where it went from nice SUV to someone’s car that has a dent, so probably what’s next is someone bringing their horse to pick you up. I think it will happen someday. It should.

FCC votes to impose tougher rules on broadband service

Internet activists declared victory over the nation’s big cable companies Thursday, after the Federal Communications Commission voted to impose the toughest rules yet on broadband service to prevent companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from creating paid fast lanes and slowing or blocking web traffic.

The 3-2 vote ushered in a new era of government oversight for an industry that has seen relatively little. It represents the biggest regulatory shake-up to telecommunications providers in almost two decades.

The new rules require that any company providing a broadband connection to your home or phone must act in the “public interest” and refrain from using “unjust or unreasonable” business practices. The goal is to prevent providers from striking deals with content providers like Google, Netflix or Twitter to move their data faster.

“Today is a red-letter day for Internet freedom,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, whose remarks at Thursday’s meeting frequently prompted applause by Internet activists in the audience.

President Barack Obama, who had come out in favor of net neutrality in the fall, portrayed the decision as a victory for democracy in the digital age. In an online letter, he thanked the millions who wrote to the FCC and spoke out on social media in support of the change.

“Today’s FCC decision will protect innovation and create a level playing field for the next generation of entrepreneurs – and it wouldn’t have happened without Americans like you,” he wrote.

Verizon saw it differently, using the Twitter hashtag (hash)ThrowbackThursday to draw attention to the FCC’s reliance on 1934 legislation to regulate the Internet. Likewise, AT&T suggested the FCC had damaged its reputation as an independent federal regulator by embracing such a liberal policy.

“Does anyone really think Washington needs yet another partisan fight? Particularly a fight around the Internet, one of the greatest engines of economic growth, investment and innovation in history?” said Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs.

Net neutrality is the idea that websites or videos load at about the same speed. That means you won’t be more inclined to watch a particular show on Amazon Prime instead of on Netflix because Amazon has struck a deal with your service provider to load its data faster.

For years, providers mostly agreed not to pick winners and losers among Web traffic because they didn’t want to encourage regulators to step in and because they said consumers demanded it. But that started to change around 2005, when YouTube came online and Netflix became increasingly popular. On-demand video began hogging bandwidth, and evidence surfaced that some providers were manipulating traffic without telling consumers.

By 2010, the FCC enacted open Internet rules, but the agency’s legal approach was eventually struck down in the courts. The vote Thursday was intended by Wheeler to erase any legal ambiguity by no longer classifying the Internet as an “information service” but a “telecommunications service” subject to Title II of the 1934 Communications Act.

That would dramatically expand regulators’ power over the industry and hold broadband providers to the higher standard of operating in the public interest.

The FCC says it won’t apply some sections of Title II, including price controls. That means rates charged to customers for Internet access won’t be subject to preapproval. But the law allows the government to investigate if consumers complain that costs are unfair.

Industry officials and congressional Republicans fought bitterly to stave off the new regulations, which they said constitutes dangerous overreach and would eventually raise costs for consumers. The broadband industry was expected to sue.

“With years of uncertainty and unintended consequences ahead of us, it falls to Congress to step in,” said Michael Powell, head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

GOP lawmakers said they would push for legislation, although it was unlikely Obama would sign such a bill.

“Only action by Congress can fix the damage and uncertainty this FCC order has inflicted on the Internet,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement.

Also at stake Thursday was Obama’s goal of helping local governments build their own fast, cheap broadband. The FCC approved petitions by Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Wilson, North Carolina, to override state laws that restrict them from expanding their broadband service to neighboring towns.

Poll: ‘Just kidding’ doesn’t make online slurs OK

In a shift in attitude, most young people now say it’s wrong to use racist or sexist slurs online, even if you’re just kidding. But when they see them, they don’t take much personal offense.

A majority of teens and young adults who use the Internet say they at least sometimes see derogatory words and images targeting various groups. They often dismiss that stuff as just joking around, not meant to be hurtful, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV.

Americans ages 14 to 24 say people who are overweight are the most frequent target, followed by gay people. Next in line for online abuse: blacks and women.

“I see things like that all the time,” says Vito Calli, 15, of Reading, Pa. “It doesn’t really bother me unless they’re meaning it to offend me personally.”

Even then he tries to brush it off.

Calli, whose family emigrated from Argentina, says people tease him online with jokes about Hispanics, but “you can’t let those things get to you.”

He’s typical of many young people surveyed. The majority say they aren’t very offended by slurs in social media or cellphone text messages — even such inflammatory terms as “bitch” or “fag” or the N-word.

Yet like Calli, most think using language that insults a group of people is wrong. The high school sophomore says he has tried, with difficulty, to break his habit of calling anything uncool “gay” or “retarded.”

Compared with an AP-MTV poll two years ago, young people today are more disapproving of using slurs online.

Nearly 6 in 10 say using discriminatory words or images isn’t all right, even as a joke. Only about half were so disapproving in 2011.

Now, a bare majority say it’s wrong to use slurs even among friends who know you don’t mean it. In the previous poll, most young people said that was OK.

But the share who come across slurs online has held steady. More than half of young users of YouTube, Facebook and gaming communities such as Xbox Live and Steam say they sometimes or often encounter biased messages on those platforms.

Why do people post or text that stuff? To be funny, according to most young people who see it. Another big reason: to be cool. Less than a third said a major reason people use slurs is because they actually harbor hateful feelings toward the groups they are maligning.

“Most of the time they’re just joking around, or talking about a celebrity,” Jeff Hitchins, a white 24-year-old in Springfield, Pa., said about the insulting references to blacks, women and gays that he encounters on the Vine and Instagram image-sharing sites. “Hate speech is becoming so commonplace, you forget where the words are coming from, and they actually hurt people without even realizing it.”

Some slurs are taken more seriously than others. Racial insults are not that likely to be seen as hurtful, yet a strong majority of those surveyed — 6 in 10 — felt comments and images targeting transgender people or Muslims are.

Almost as likely to be viewed as mean-spirited are slurs against gays, lesbians and bisexual people, and those aimed at people who are overweight.

Maria Caprigno, who has struggled with obesity since childhood, said seeing mean images on Facebook stings. But she thinks the online world reflects the rest of U.S. society.

“It’s still socially acceptable to comment on someone’s weight and what someone is eating,” said Caprigno, 18, of Norwood, Mass. “We need to change that about our culture before people realize posting stuff like that online is going to be offensive to someone.”

Erick Fernandez of West New York, N.J., says what people share online reflects the influence of song lyrics and music videos and movies.

Fernandez, 22, said he was “probably very loose” about that himself before he was chosen for a diversity summer camp in high school that explained why phrases like “That’s so gay” are hurtful. Now a college student, he routinely sees insulting language for women and people of color bandied about online.

“I try to call some of my friends out on it but it’s really to no avail,” Fernandez said. “They brush it off and five minutes later something else will come out. Why even bother?”

In the poll, young people said they were less likely to ask someone to stop using hurtful language on a social networking site than face to face.

Alexandria Washington said she’s accustomed to seeing men who wouldn’t say offensive things to her in person post pictures of “half-naked women in sexual positions,” followed by demeaning comments and slurs like “whore” and “ratchet.”

“They’ll post anything online, but in person it’s a whole different story,” said Washington, 22, a graduate student in Tallahassee, Fla.

There seems to be a desensitizing effect. Those who report more exposure to discriminatory images and words online are less likely to say it’s wrong than those who rarely or never encounter it.

Context is crucial, too. Demeaned groups sometimes reclaim slurs as a way of stripping the words of their power — like the feminist Bitch magazine or gay rights activists chanting “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!”

Washington, who is African-American, said that on most days she doesn’t come across racial slurs on social media. But she stumbles upon bigoted words when race is in the news, such as surrounding President Barack Obama’s re-election, and finds them hurtful in that serious context.

Likewise, Calli, the high school student originally from Argentina, said he could stomach almost any name-calling but gets upset when someone uses a falsehood to denigrate immigrants.

Jeffrey Bakken, 23, a producer at a video game company in Chicago, said the bad stuff online, especially slurs posted anonymously, shouldn’t overshadow what he sees as the younger generation’s stronger commitment to equal rights for minorities and gays than its elders.

“Kids were horrible before the Internet existed,” Bakken said. “It’s just that now it’s more accessible to the public eye.”

The AP-NORC Center/MTV poll was conducted online Sept. 27-Oct. 7 among a random national sample of 1,297 people between the ages of 14 and 24. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. Funding for the study was provided by MTV as part of “A Thin Line” campaign to stop digital abuse.

The survey was conducted by GfK using KnowledgePanel, a probability-based online panel. Respondents are recruited randomly using traditional telephone and mail sampling methods. People selected who had no Internet access were given it for free.

Subway riders applaud gay man’s stand against anti-gay preacher. Video

A video gaining popularity on the Web shows a gay New Yorker standing up against a homophobic preacher in a subway car.

To the preacher, who says, “What the hell are you teaching our children?” the gay men shouts, “You are bad and full of hate. You are false. You are a false prophet. Do not listen to this man. He’s scared. He’s full of hatred.”

The back and forth continues, with the preaching and the shouting of “false prophet.”

The gay man eventually says that he’s gay and Jesus loves him.

And the riders on the train applaud.

The date on the video posted on YouTube is Feb. 16 and getting promoted on progressive blogs, including http://americablog.com.

On the Web…


Anti-bullying campaign focuses on parents

Parents are urged to teach their kids to speak up if they witness school bullying in new ads that target an issue that top Obama administration officials vow to make a national priority.

A long-term campaign featuring television, print and web ads was unveiled this week and will start running in October. The campaign is a joint effort by the Ad Council, a nonprofit that distributes public service announcements, and the Free to Be Foundation, a group that includes entertainers Marlo Thomas, Alan Alda and Mel Brooks.

In one television ad, two girls are seen bullying a schoolmate, mocking her appearance and telling her that nobody likes her. A fourth girl looks on but doesn’t intervene.

“Every day, kids witness bullying,” says a narrator. “They want to help, but don’t know how. Teach your kids how to be more than a bystander.”

Online and print ads will warn parents that their kids regularly encounter negative messages such as “you’re worthless” and “everybody hates you.”

The ads were unveiled at an annual anti-bullying summit hosted by the Department of Education in Washington, where lawmakers, educators and government officials convened to develop a national strategy aimed at ensuring a safe, healthy learning environment for students. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius addressed the summit, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered a keynote speech on Aug. 7.

Once considered an unpleasant but inescapable part of adolescence, bullying has been thrust into the national conversation by a string of high-profile suicides by students who were later revealed to have been bullied.

Of particular concern to education advocates is bullying directed against students perceived to be gay or lesbian – such as Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old who killed himself in 2010 after allegedly being bullied online by his college roommate, who was convicted of invasion of privacy and other charges for using a webcam to film Clementi and another man kissing.

Sebelius told the summit that suicides by teenagers and children had served as a national wake-up call.

“Bullying is not just a harmless rite of passage, or an inevitable part of growing up,” Sebelius said. “It’s a systematic situation that threatens the health and well-being of our young people. It’s destructive to our communities and devastating to our future.”

Sebelius said school districts and states are aggressively working to quell school bullying, noting that 36 state anti-bullying laws were enacted in 2009 and 2010. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added bullying to its regular survey of risk behavior in schools.

She added that cyberbullying has become a top concern as students increasingly communicate through social media, text messages and the Internet.

“We are all responsible for our children’s safety,” Sebelius said. “And no one can afford to be a bystander.”

On the Web: http://www.stopbullying.gov.