TULSA - With the new school year in full swing, students all over America are once again in the process of learning.
Unfortunately, some students will learn how it feels to be bullied.
Statistics show one-third of America's teenagers say they have been bullied at school. In recent years, bullying has taken a technological turn. Cyber bullying has become a huge problem.
Cyber bullying can take many forms, including:
- Threatening or harassing someone online
- Sending mean text messages
- Excluding someone from social networking groups
- Spreading rumors online
"Cyber bullying can often be even worse than conventional bullying because technology allows cyber bullies to remain anonymous, letting them be as bold and mean as they wish," says attorney Martin Sweet of legal information website THELAW.TV.
In recent years, many school districts have launched campaigns to inform students and parents of the dangers of cyber bullying. Those efforts have increased awareness of the problem, but cyber bullying remains a serious issue.
If your child is the victim of cyber bullying, the first thing to remember is not to retaliate – the last thing the world needs is another cyber bully. You should keep copies of the messages as evidence.
Also, it is not necessary to take away your child's cell phone or computer. Instead, try the following:
- Teach your child to ignore the cyber bully or respond with short, unemotional messages such as "Quit it"
- Block the email address or cell phone number of the cyber bully
- Change your child's email address or cell phone number
If you know who your child's cyber bully is, it might be helpful to talk to the bully's parents to let them know what's going on. If you do talk to the cyber bully's parents, inform them that they could be legally responsible for their child's actions.
"If your child is a victim of cyber bullying you need to take action," says Kansas City, Missouri criminal defense attorney David Langston of Langston Law, Chartered. "Talk to school administrators, if that does not work talk to the police officer assigned to the school to seek a criminal complaint. As a last resort consult an attorney about a civil law suit."
If you don't know who your child's cyber bully is, you obviously can't talk to the bully's parents. In these cases, it might be helpful to have your Internet Service Provider track the messages so you can find the source. Some email providers and social networking sites will shut down an account if you can provide evidence the account is being used for cyber bullying.
Sometimes, cyber bullying progresses to the point where your child is being physically threatened. If your child has been threatened, let your local police department know about it.
For more information about cyber bullying, juvenile defense law, and criminal law and to watch videos of criminal defense lawyers answering common questions on video, go to THELAW.TV (http://thelaw.tv).
Bullying can happen to anyone, anywhere. Quite a few of our employees here at Channel 2 have admitted to being victims of bullying when they were in school. 2News Problem Solver Michelle Lowry wrote about her experience as a child and how being bullied helped shape her into the mother, daughter, and person she is today. Here is an excerpt from her story:
" In elementary school a group of girls cornered me at the park. They circled around me; giggling at my fear. They started pulling my hair and two of them ripped my shirt off. One of them ran into the bathroom and put my shirt in the toilet. Completely humiliated and in tears I went into the bathroom, fished my shirt out of the toilet, rinsed it out as best I could and put it back on to wear the rest of the afternoon."