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David Baxter

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Some Remedies for Cyber-Bullying
May 29, 2007

When someone bullies your child, it may hurt you more than it hurts your child. And now, bullies have a weapon that can wound more than a punch or a kick: the Internet.

News 11's Melissa Voetsch takes a look at cyber-bullying -- and what you can do about it.

High School senior Adam Back says, for him cyber-bullying started in Middle School. "Kids would get alternate screen names so I wouldn't know who they were -- and just let loose," Back said.

The attacks hit hard, digging into his self-esteem. "I'm not going to say that there weren't some times where I thought, 'Wow, am I really what that person said?" Back said. "It's a horrible feeling to know that somebody went out of their way just to personally attack you online."

The truth is, kids can bully using all types of technology: text-messaging, posting comments on web sites like myspace.com or facebook.com. And there's also instant messaging.

Ruthie Carnavale specializes in Internet predators. But she says cyber-bullying is fast becoming the newest threat to our kids. "It's kind of a cancer that grows and grows because they don't see the results of what they're doing, they don't see the hurt faces. They don't see the tears," Carnavale said.

Carnavale says people can and will say things over the Internet that they'd never say to someone's face. "They tend to think that they're taking a telephone and texting another telephone or sitting at a keyboard and e-mailing another computer. They don't realize there are people on the other end," she said.

According to I-Safe.com, 42 percent of teens said they were cyber-bullied, and 58-percent said someone has said something mean or hurtful online to them. Fifty-three percent of teens surveyed admitted they had written something mean or hurtful to someone else online.

Whitmer Principal Brad Faust is seeing more and more of it. "It is this almost behind-the-scenes which makes it more difficult," he said. "Parents will call and want us to do something, but do you know how difficult it is to track that? That's one of the more difficult problems that we have."

If the problem surfaces at school, that behavior can be dealt with by the schools. But if it happens at home -- after school hours -- parents may be their child's only protection.

You can choose to address the problem by going to the parents of the perpetrator. If you find no satisfaction there, you do have the law to back you up.

Juvenile Judge Denise Cubbon says there are any number of charges that address cyber-bullying: menacing, disorderly conduct, harassment, inducing panic.

Rarely would these charges result in jail time. But when the judicial system gets involved, the behavior of the teen is addressed.

"We look at family counseling, drug and alcohol assessments, and sometimes just a psychological assessment. If there were any treatment recommendations we'd follow through on that," Cubbon said.

In most cases the punishment involves parole or some type of court supervised counseling. It also usually involves usually a no-contact order with the victim. It's up to the parents to decide if they want to take it that far.

As for Back, he did what most kids feel forced to do when dealing with bullies. "Realize that those people are just very frustrated sad people. I think that's all you can do. You have to be a strong person and realize that those people are trying to hurt you, and when you let them hurt you, that's really what they want."
 

stargazer

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I had an anonymous troll leave a comment on my blog once that read as follows:

"You want everybody to think you're some kind of great genius, when all you are is a neurotic guy with delusions of grandeur. What if you gave your play to the world, and no one cared?"

I have to admit that I internalized those words. I thought: "Well, he's right--there is a part of me that wants so much to be recognized for what I have to offer, that I probably come across as though I need to let everyone know I'm a great genius or something. And I'm pretty neurotic, and I definitely have had delusions of grandeur. But does the troll know that delusions of grandeur are symptoms of a manic episode? He's not giving me a break. Besides, how does he know that I don't have any talent? Isn't that what he's suggesting?"

And so on and so forth. When the troll finds the right button to press--especially if he had been a "lurker" for a while, as this one evidently had been--he'll press it. It's a hit and run, basically.
 

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