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Special Report: Web Warfare

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May 5, 2008

Albany -- When you hear the term bully, you typically think of of that big, mean guy or girl who pushed you around on the playground. But kids nowadays face a whole new type of bully; cyberbullies.

They're in on line chat rooms, in videos, even on cell phones. They're harder to fight and harder to ignore and they're causing fights in your children's schools.

The internet is easily accessible, fast, in the palm of your hand and lately in your face. You can even see video of teenagers fighting.

"I think it's the language of the students, teenagers today they're language is MySpace, Facebook, even through text messaging, and video blog probably YouTube, that is the language of the students today," says Torrey Williams, Mitchell County Assistant Principal.  

But what your children may be posting or talking about on these webpages may amount to cyber-bullying.

"There's a lot of that going on," says Lee County Freshman Niesha Shead.

"It gets nasty sometimes, honestly things will happen at school and before you get home it's already on myspace," said Mitchell County Junior Nick Hill.

"Yes, it's a bit of a problem to a certain extent," says Mitchell County Senior Akeem Knight.

"MySpace does the fighting for you, everybody's letting the whole world know what's going on instead of just solving it," said Ebony Brown, another Mitchell County Sophomore. 

In the case of some Florida students it escalated to this, and shockingly enough it's lead to fights here in south Georgia.

 "We have had a couple fights, but it hasn't been bad fights but we've taken care of the situation when it comes to cyber-bullying so far here at Lee County High," said Cpl. Jason Anthony, Lee County School Resource Officer.

"They get mad about they're boyfriends going with their friends and what they might be wearing to parties and stuff like that," says Shead.

"It's pretty much girls. It's not boys it's a lot of girls, it's rumors. You have one girl that bickers with another and then her friends get involved on MySpace and start leaving bad blogs on my space to the other girl and then they bring it to school," says Anthony.

"I think it is, because girls gossip, and gossip travels fast," Ebony says.

With access to internet it no longer has to work it's way through the hallways, now it's instantaneous and hard to stop.

 "My friend is going with my other friends boyfriend and they'll want to fight about that, and they'll start talking about eachother and get into eachothers face and stuff and they'll start talking noise and end up in a fight. The administration will break it up, but they'll still be beefing about the same thing," Niesha says.

The problem erupt most times in school hallways when both parties are brought face to face. School administrators say they're working to combat cyber-bullying before it gets out of hand.

"If bullying is left unchecked it can escalate into something that's very large and something that can be very detrimental to a student," says Barbara Turner, who is art of Dougherty County Student Support Services.  

 "The kids will come to us and tell us when some of that stuff is starting sometimes we'll go and look for ourselves and we've stopped a lot of confrontations doing that as well," Anthony said.

"You have to open the door for students to come in and have a dialogue with you. We here at Mitchell County high school have an open door policy so when there are problems not only with parents but student have the opportunity to come in and discuss those, not saying that we're always going to solve the problem, but at least they have a voice," Williams says.

 "We use other students to talk with students," Turner says. "We have a very strong peer helping program and we rely on these students who have been trained to talk with other students about the dangers of bullying and how this very act can impact their lives."

Students say sometimes that's all it takes, taking time face to face to sort things out.

"We have an open door policy at our school, where anytime there's a situation like this, we have our principals who are always there, our guidance counselors and they can go and speak, they can bring them all together and resolve the conflict," says Akeem.

They say it's about not falling in the traps that other students may set and being bigger than what's being said.

"You just can't let one little thing stop your show, you have to keep going, you can let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch," Ebony says.

"What I've had friends tell me is they just say hey man what's the problem, what's the deal and it actually gets worked out half the time it's just a misunderstanding or something simple like that," Nick  says.

 "It's not necessary because it's bad to be fighting for no reason about stupid stuff like that," Niesha  says.

That's why schools say it's important to have students counseling other students and why they encourage parents to closely monitor what their students are talking about in chatrooms and blogs. They hope open door policies prevent something like this from happening here in south Georgia.

In 1999, Georgia instituted an anti-bullying law that requires school district to complete mandatory training for faculty and staff about the dangers of bullying and how to combat the newest forms.

    • Here are several other sources of information on cyber-bullying that you might find helpful:

  • Tips to Stop Cyber Bullying

    Kids in Georgia Carolina are now adjusting to the new school year. But there's a new threat for parents and students to consider, Cyber-bullying. Experts say bullying no longer stays on the play ground, but now it can reach your child through the computer. A National Law enforcement group says more than 13 million children between the ages of six and 17 are victims of cyber bullying.
  • Cyber-bullying combines meanness and technology

    Many parents may remember being a victim of physical and emotional suffering at the hands of a childhood bully. Others may regret being a bully when they were young. Youths are still at risk for verbal and physical bullying, but today's technology dramatically increases a bully's potential impact. Internet bullying, or cyber-bullying, gives school-yard bullies a World Wide Web of options.
  • National Bullying News

    Respect. Empathy. They're essential in our society. Not just as adults, but as children also. Imagine if students had no respect for their teachers and bullied them? (By the way, this is truly happening. Or bosses that bully their employees? (This is happening all too frequently as well). Or people who bully their spouses? (We all know what a problem this is around the world). Where does it end? Is it ok to bully law enforcement? Parents? It has to be taught somewhere, or we'll end up with a society that is out of control. If learning respect and empathy doesn't begin as children, is there any hope that we'll end up with respectful adults? If we (as a society) don't teach them, who will? 
  • Fighting Gossip With Graphics

    It's like responding to an insult with a group hug. Call it the latest, most innovative tactic in a growing movement against a a controversial Web site, where students can call out others by name and make potentially libelous, hateful or damaging statements without apparent consequence.
  • YouTube and Its Community Must Fight Against The Internet Bullies It Houses

    Let's imagine for a moment that you have a teenager who has heard about a place called YouTube. All of his friends are on the site blogging on video about their lives and sharing videos and basically having a good time. This same teenager who used to go outside and play along with his friends has now subscribed to them online and is talking to them through his webcam.

  • DEFINITION - Cyber Bullying

    Cyberbullying is willful and involves recurring or repeated harm inflicted through the medium of electronic text. According to R.B. Standler bullying intends to cause emotional distress and has no legitimate purpose to the choice of communications. Cyberbullying can be as simple as continuing to send e-mail to someone who has said they want no further contact with the sender. Cyberbullying may also include threats, sexual remarks, pejorative labels (i.e., hate speech). Cyber-bullies may publish personal contact information for their victims at websites. They may attempt to assume the identity of a victim for the purpose of publishing material in their name that defames or ridicules them.

  • Cyberbullying 101

    While we as educators are all sadly familiar with "traditional" means of bullying, you may not be aware of a new flavor of this distasteful reality of YA life:  "cyberbullying."  According to eSchoolNews, as many as one in three children have been bullied, threatened, harassed, or taunted through some means of computer or electronic communications, such as text messages, social networking site postings, or chat rooms.   While many of us may be more familiar with the more extreme cases of cyberbullying, such as teen suicide.


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