Archive for Cyber-bullying

Parents & Courts Condone and Encourage Child Bullying And Harassment


Levi Null

So this is what society has  come down to. Encourage bullying and terror.

Say you're blessed enough to become a parent. Sadly, your child is born different -- with a disability. Perhaps autism, Asperger Syndrome, Down Syndrome, Tourettes or one of many other afflictions.  Wish, will and pray as you might, you hope that by the time they reach school age, they'll be well enough to attend. To be as much like one of the other kids as possible.

You get to the point that you believe this will be a solution. Perhaps integration into a social environment of school peers will be the panacea. At least, you figure your child will be protected, be kept safe.

But what happens when you realize your prayer isn't answer and hope is not a viable option? You find yourself up sh**s creek without a paddle. You've been deserted. And not just by the kids (who we know can be cruel) but by the teachers and the school officials as well.

How do you stand by when you report your child's abuse to the school and they side with the bullies? How about when they even blame your abused child as bringing it on himself?

Then you, as the heartbroken parent find you're faced with public ostracism over Facebook, blaming you for your child's behavior. Does this seem fair? Just? Right? How do you think you feel when you find the bully kids posting videos on the Internet of  their abuse which also shows teachers in the background witnessing this harassment and just turning their backs?

The cherry on this disgusting sundae comes when the parents of the bullies defend their kid's offensive actions on TV news, and they get hundreds of responses, applauding their support of their bullying kids.

Watch this story of 13 year old Levi Null, from the Melcher-Dallas school district in Texas.

The message here is that sadly, ignorance and inhumanity is passed down from generation to generation. What we do as parents matters. As the parent of both a boy and a girl, I know how hard it was to reprimand them, and I did it sparingly but judiciously. I did it to make them better children. But not doing anything or worse, condoning such bad behavior leads to a total deterioration of society.

Just over a month ago I reported on a 12 year old girl, Rebecca Sedwick in a post on how cyber bullying led her to climb up a grain silo and jump to her death.

HERE'S AN UPDATE on this related story. The two kids who drove Sedwick to her suicide were suspended from school but just yesterday, the court made their determination on any charges, reported by the New York Daily News:

Charges against two Florida girls accused of bullying a 12-year-old former classmate to her eventual suicide will be dropped, local authorities announced Wednesday.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd confirmed Wednesday evening that two of Rebecca Sedwick's accused cyberbullies, 14-year-old Guadalupe Shaw and a 13-year-old girl, will have their charges of aggravated stalking dropped.

Is this the fair signal to send in addressing an epidemic of harassment and bullying?

Parents condone it. Courts refuse to condemn it? Buckle your seat belts. We're in for the proverbial bumpy ride.


Losing Your Head Over Facebook


facebook icon

Facebook. It's quite a phenomena. It's really the "face" of the internet. There's hardly a person, a product or a show that isn't somehow linked to the huge social network. And now the pool of users is about to increase.

Internet magazine, MASHABLE.COM:

Facebook Lowers Age Rule to Allow Teens to Post Publicly

Facebook is giving its teenage users a public voice on the platform. For the first time, beginning Wednesday, users between the ages of 13 and 17 will be able to post publicly and obtain followers of their profiles.

Previously, teens using Facebook were only able to share content with friends, friends of friends and custom groups like "family." Now, they can choose to share posts to anyone on Facebook, just like users 18 and older.

Facebook is making this change despite numerous stories of cyber bullying by people using the social network  hub as it's forum. Last week I posted about the two girls in Florida, 12 and 14 years old who used Facebook to online bully another girl, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, into taking her own life.

Hey, wait a minute, aren't they under 18? So now their activities in bullying will expand to everyone, not just qualified friends and family. It also means that they will be exposed to more "strangers" than before. Perhaps even predators. Is this sounding a little odd -- especially the timing of this reducing the restrictions when a young girl took her life because of activities allowed on Facebook. Are young kids really capable of handling this site? I don't know. Ask the late Rebecca Sedwick or her two harassers. If they couldn't have accessed or posted on FB, would Rebecca still be around?

While pondering that, consider the even more shocking news from Facebook this week. According to the terms of service (TOS), that thing you never read but clicked that you agreed to anyway, has made some changes.

Are they tightening restrictions? That would  make sense.

No. They're actually loosening them. Until this week, certain behaviors were prohibited on Facebook -- no nudity and no extreme violent (involving death) videos were allowed.

censored art

Okay, especially if you're going to have kids as young as 13 freely roaming the social network, those prohibitions make sense. Or at least they did.


But Nudity Still Isn't

Facebook has lifted a ban on beheading videos, establishing a policy that allows the graphic videos to remain on the site so long as they are not celebrated by the people posting them.

The social network, which allows anyone 13 and older to become a member, issued a temporary ban on the beheading videos in May, following complaints from the Family Online Safety Institute. Under the new policy, images that “glorify violence” as well as those depicting a woman’s “fully exposed breast” will still be banned, the BBCreports.

Well now, aren't you glad the progressive thinkers over at Facebook are looking out for our kids. It's now allowable for them to watch violent acts such as a beheading, but be relieved that they are still spared the shock of glimpsing of a naked woman's breast.


What kind of society are we that we find the human body profane, but violent acts of death permissive?

Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?


Cyber-Bullying Claims 12 Y.O. The Parents Of Teen Suspects May Be Charged


Rebecca Sedgwick

Let's think about this for a beat. A 12 year old girl, Rebecca Sedwick is cyber-bullied by two other girls, about her age, one 12, the other 14. She reports it to her mother, Tricia Norton, who then takes the issue to the school. So far, so good (in a relative sense as you'll see). The school, over ten months does nothing, at least anything that produced positive results.

Reported by Yahoo News and ABC News:

Rebecca was bullied online for 10 months and Norton said her daughter had been physically attacked five times before that, police say. Eventually, Norton pulled Rebecca from Crystal Lake Middle School in Pompano Beach to end the bullying and keep her daughter away from the two suspects, who also attended classes there.

"I made several, several reports to the school. I did an online bullying report because I thought nothing was being done by the school. And nothing was being done on that either," Norton said.

The young victim is so rocked by this continued abuse and no solution from the normal channels that she takes what she believes is the only step left. She rides her bike to an abandoned grain silo, climbs up to the top, then jumps to the pavement below, death greets her at the end of her fall.

But the tragedy doesn't end there. One of the two girls accused of the cyber-bullying continued the onslaught  after the suicide with Facebook postings including this:

Yes I bullied Rebecca nd she killed her self but IDGAF (I Don't Give A F***)

Now as distraught as Rebecca's mother is, she has joined Sheriff Judd in calling out the parents, placing blame on them. Despite their denials that their kids could have done this heinous activity, the parents are being met with a unified, "horsepucky."

One of they accused girls mothers claims she checked daily to oversee her daughter's comments on FaceBook and saw nothing wrong. Really?

"You should drink bleach and die!"

That isn't a warning sign? There's nothing wrong with that?

Are these fit parents?

Evidently Sheriff Judd doesn't think so. And he's taking bold steps. He's considering charges against the parents.

"Those parents haven't cared from the very beginning," Judd said. "After this initial event, after the initial interviews, why did they let her stay on Facebook any longer?"

Judd said he's only investigating the older suspect's parents, whom he described as being "in denial."

"When the parents don't take care of the children and it becomes criminal conduct, then it becomes my responsibility, and my deputies and I know how to take control," Judd said.

Sheriff Grady Judd

Well, taking control isn't meeting with everyone's comfort zone down in the hotbed of social and legal justice, the state of Florida. The Sheriff is taking heat claiming he's overstepping his bounds. Here's what Tampa defense attorney Jeff Brown says to Tampa's Fox Channel 13 of Polk Sheriff Grady Judd actions in arresting the two girls and giving out their identities:

"He went beyond his duties. He is just a sheriff. He is not a judge, he's not a lawyer, he is not the state attorney's office, he's not representing these girls. So he is doing an awful lot of pre-judging, he's bringing a lot of his side of the facts out there, and maybe these are the facts. But I don't understand why he can't let the system play out, why he can't let the people who are the lawyers -- not the sheriff -- investigate the case, look into what's going on here, and then have a judge decide what the appropriate penalty or sentence is, and see about the proper way to handle this in a courtroom.

Spoken like a true defense attorney.

Sadly though, there's another story today that goes up in the face of this tragedy -- and it comes from the NEW YORK TIMES:

Facebook SF headquarters

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook has loosened its privacy rules for teenagers as a debate swirls over online threats to children from bullies and sexual predators.

The move, announced on Wednesday, allows teenagers to post status updates, videos and images that can be seen by anyone, not just their friends or people who know their friends.

I'm not big on restrictions and regulations. But they do have their place. And in light of Rebecca Sedwick and so many others victims like her,  it might be time for FaceBook to be bold and return to their original rules. It didn't stop this death. But who knows that maybe it stopped some cyber-bullying crimes from ever having started.


Cyber-bullying Claims Another Victim.


Rebecca Ann Sedwick

I consider every life lost sad. When something could have been done to save that life, it's a tragedy.

The following is a story that sadly has been told about others before and will tragically be told over again, until we take steps to help. Rebecca Ann Sedwick is dead. She was 12 years old and she took her own life. Why? She was a victim of bullying.

I know, you've heard it before. Unless we do something about it, we'll hear about it more and more.

According to CBS News:

(CBS) LAKELAND, Fla. - The family of a 12-year-old Lakeland, Fla. girl says the teen was driven to commit suicide after she was continuously bullied, and that school officials knew about it, according to CBS affiliate WTSP.

The station reports Rebecca Ann Sedwick's family had notified officials at the Crystal Lake Middle School about the bullying and that they handed over the complaints to police for investigation.

I guess the Lakeland officers didn't take this seriously enough or maybe they just didn't have time. Rebecca was being cyberbullied with messages including "Go kill your­self" and "Why are you still alive?"

Evidently this wasn't a priority for the Lakeland police officers. It sure was for Rebecca and her family. Now they're planning a funeral.

The statistics on bullying and suicide are alarming:

    • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
    • Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University
    • A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying
    • 10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide, according to the study above
    • According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying

Bullying has been around for ages. Cyber bullying is now an epidemic. And we have some possible tools that we should think about. Among them is one I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up yet I'd feel guilty if I didn't. I want to be part of a solution, not a guilty bystander.

We have given the NSA open field to use monitoring of meta data on our social networks. Warrant-less collection and dissemination of our emails, texts and calls. Keywords are flagged. Face it, we're all being spied on. But we've given carte-blanche to the NSA, at least so far. They hide behind one of the worst pieces of legislation ever passed, the Patriot Act.

We lose far more lives in teen suicides than in organized acts of terror on our soil. The largest act of terrorism on US soil in the past three years is April 15, 2013: Boston Marathon bombings: Two bombs detonated within seconds of each other near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing 3 and injuring more than 180 people.

Maybe the dearth of attacks is the NSA's stellar cyber work preventing them. And if it is, then this goes to the point I'm about to propose.

Could we utilize the same type of keyword monitoring that might foil a future Rebecca's demise? Could metadata mining of bullying terms, determined by Psychologists, experts in this area, be used to single out upcoming or potential bullying threats?

I'm only thinking out loud here, But I'd love to see the thousands of abuses be monitored with the same vigor as the monitoring of on-line sexual predators. I'm not picking one over the other. I'm saying they both have a place in our electronic age.

Am I thinking this is a little bit of "big brother?" Yes. it absolutely is. But what we justify to prevent one evil is no less or more harmful than what we may gain from it's usage in another epidemic.

I'd prefer no electronic eavesdropping at all. Not because I have something to hide, but because I just don't like government having so much power. That said, I also believe in the sanctity of life. And if we allow the NSA to spy, and the police to spy on potential terrorist acts or sexual internet crimes, why not for child suicide risks?

Slippery slope? Yes, for sure. But we're already on that slope.

Slam me for putting this out there, but we need less Rebecca suicides out there. We have the technology. And Lord knows, we're better off preventing crimes and deaths, than random stop and frisk or marijuana busts of individuals.

Love to hear your thoughts.