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Bullying Rampant in Cyberspace

By Nicholas Zifcak
Epoch Times Washington, D.C. Staff
Aug 21, 2006

A MSN chat room internet site is seen on a computer screen October 13, 2003 in London, England. Microsoft''s internet service MSN is to close all of its chatrooms in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and most of Asia on October 14. The increase in abuse of the Internet, in particular inappropriate material being sent to children has led Microsoft to this decision. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Cyber bullying troubles twice as many youth as face-to-face bullying, announced "Fight Crime: Invest in Kids," an anti-crime organization made up of more than 2,500 law enforcement leaders (police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors) and violence survivors.

According to a new poll commissioned by "Fight Crime" of 1,000 kids, one in three teens and one in six preteens have been bullied in cyberspace. One in six teens is sometimes bullied face-to-face. "Fight Crime" estimates more than 13 million children ages 6 to 17 have been victims of cyber bullying.

Cyber bullying is sending a cruel message or image about a child through electronic media such as e-mail, cell phones, instant messaging and websites.

To publicize this poll, cyber bullying victim, Kylie Kenney described what happened to her in the eighth grade.

"One morning when I arrived at school I was at my locker preparing for first period and two girls came up to me and asked me if I had seen the website. I was really confused and had no idea what they were talking about. They told me there was a website put up about me saying that I should die and it was titled, 'Kill Kylie Kenney'."

Vermont resident Kylie Kenney is 15 years old now and about to enter her sophomore year of high-school. She enjoys both ice and field hockey and excels in them. In eighth grade, cyber bullying reached her even on the field. It was embarrassing when a girl on her field hockey team asked her why she had sent instant messages asking the girl out. It turned out someone had stolen her ID and sent messages to other girls making Kylie out to be a lesbian.

For Kylie Kenney, cyber bullying wasn't something between only her and the bullies. "Everyone in school knew about the website." She even transferred schools to finish eighth grade, but the bullying followed her to the new school too. So instead she finished the year at home. As a freshman at a Rice Memorial Catholic High School last year, bullying was less though some face-to-face bullying continued. She will continue at Rice Memorial this fall happy to move on with her life.

"No one should have to go through this, it was awful, it ruined two years of my education. I lost a lot friends and I only had the support of my family," she said.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff also spoke to help publicize cyber bullying and called on every school to adopt a comprehensive anti-bullying program. He emphasized how pervasive cyber bullying can be.

"With three quarters of our children online or on cell phones, bullying goes beyond school, it happens on the way home, it happens at home," he said.

He also told the story of 13-year-old Ryan Halligan who was consistently harassed through cell phone text messages for two years. The bullying eventually led him to commit suicide.

"I don't think people understand the real seriousness of being bullied and the impact that cyber bullying can have," said Darrel Stephens, Chief of Police, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina.

"It is a problem that is emerging…laws have not caught up with this type of bullying in most parts of America."

Stephens presented ten steps families can take to stop cyber bullying. One step said to teach your kids to tell adults when they are bullied. More than 2 million of the 13+ million victims told no one about the attacks. Stephens encourages parents to communicate with their children about bullying and wants schools to be required to address the problem as well.