News reporter Doug Dunbar told of two different Texas teenagers that were cyberbullied through text messages. The good news was that the parents of both families immediately received a danger alert to their emails and phones because they were signed up for WebSafety’s CellSafety services.
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If Phoebe Prince’s death teaches us anything, it should be that we need to act—now!
According to the Boston Herald, the 15-year-old at South Hadley High School student (pictured at right) committed suicide last week because she was relentlessly bullied, both at school and through text message, Facebook, and other social networking websites. The Boston Globe reported that Phoebe received a “barrage of ridicule from a clique of girls who were irate that she had dated a football player.” This is a pathetic and sorrowful story too often repeated by our youth.
We must quickly take preventative action at the following three fronts (and in this order):
Rather than properly disciplining their child for the act of cyber-bullying, some parents are taking the low road and suing schools for punishing their child’s act of hate.
According to a recent story from the Los Angeles Times, some parents and free-speech advocates are fighting back against school-issued discipline, claiming their children “have a 1st Amendment right to be nasty in cyberspace.”
Even after the sad case of Megan Meier, who committed suicide after an online hoax perpetrated by a schoolmates’ mother, some people still think that the online world is an anonymous playground where they can vent their frustrations on others with little to no consequences.
Elizabeth Thrasher, a 40-year-old St. Louis woman, was recently charged with felony harassment after authoring an online hoax to embarrass and humiliate a 17-year-old girl. The girl is the daughter of a woman who is dating Thrasher’s ex-husband, with whom—according to reports—Thrasher had a “deteriorating relationship.”
After a recent fight with the woman, the teen sent Thrasher a MySpace message, telling her to grow up. Instead of acting like an adult, however, Thrasher chose to act like a vindictive child. In response to the teen’s comment, Thrasher posted a sexually suggestive ad on Craigslist, along with the girl’s picture, phone number, email address, and place of employment. The girl subsequently received sexually charged emails, text messages, and pornography on her phone.
To say the least, Thrasher’s actions were childish and immature, but they had the potential to be much more dangerous than they turned out to be. What if a man on Craigslist had seen the ad and waited for the girl in the parking lot of her place of employment? What if the girl’s picture and information had been lifted from Craigslist and posted on pornographic websites, forever damaging her reputation?
Although there is little we can do as parents to prevent immature adults and others from posting hurtful, damaging, or dangerous information online about our children. It is important that we report this activity as soon as it happens, and teach our children to do the same. Increased reporting and education will help us all fight this problem and bring about better legislation to fight online bullies, prevent future attacks, and prosecute the offenders.
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Cyber-bully mom, Lori Drew recently walked out of a California courthouse, her case tentatively dismissed. One of the main reasons for the judge’s dismissal comes from the fact that there are virtually no laws covering cyber-bullying and prosecuting such a case may lead to some very wide-reaching precedents.
As a result of Lori Drew’s reckless behavior, a 13 year-old girl committed suicide, and we all hope that this is an isolated incident, but cyber-bullying is on the rise. Just as children have always teased and fought in the school yard, they continue to fight today in the virtual world of social networking and email, and this bullying can have just as much of an effect on a child as face-to-face interactions.
It used to be that if a child was being bullied at school, he or she could go home and find a reprieve from the taunting, but now that abuse can follow them home and come right through the computer screen.
Help your children avoid being victims or bullies by talking to them about appropriate online behavior, and let them know that they can talk to you about inappropriate behavior they see or experience online.
For additional resources for talking with your children about online safety, visit iKeepSafe.org
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