Now is a good time to set limits for kids onlineI was able to spend some time working at Superior High School this year. It was a wonderful experience and refreshing in my line of work to see firsthand how many fantastic kids are in Superior. But, the first day I was there I started on my first harassment complaint.
By: Bonnie Beste, Superior Telegram
I was able to spend some time working at Superior High School this year. It was a wonderful experience and refreshing in my line of work to see firsthand how many fantastic kids are in Superior. But, the first day I was there I started on my first harassment complaint. I came to find out these problems had no distinction — it did not matter if you were an athlete, in Honor Society, or an average student. Harassment, bullying and cyber bullying affect all groups of kids.
Bullying is not the same any more. Twenty years ago, if you had a problem with someone at school it stayed at school and you were able to have a break from it at home. In the age of social media and cell phones, children can be under constant harassment or intimidation. They are connected to everyone all the time.
Cyber bullying is treated like old-fashioned bullying. Law enforcement can arrest individuals for state statutes of disorderly conduct, harassment and unlawful use of computerized communication system. Sending threats or using lewd and profane language can result in arrest.
When we talk about arrest, I don’t believe kids or parents realize the seriousness of things kids might do with their phones like sexting or sending inappropriate photos. Sexting usually begins as a consensual exchange. But when a relationship goes bad, a once private photo is sometimes shared with others. It is a vicious circle because the kids sharing the photo could be arrested for distribution of pornography or child pornography depending on the age of the photographed person. Don’t assume your kid would never do anything like that.
I took a call from a parent angry about her child being harassed and the awful things people were texting her child and putting on Facebook. A short time later, she called back to apologize after discovering her child was at fault in the situation as well.
The dangers of cyber bullying or sexting can be depression, suicide, anxiety, anger, insecurity and revenge. About 71 percent of school-shooting attackers were victims of bullying. We need to recognize the seriousness of these issues and take action.
Some tips for parents are to know the capabilities of your child’s cell phone and other mobile devices, iPads or iPods, PS3, Xbox games. Make rules early on for your child’s wireless devices. Confiscate cell phones and computers at 9 p.m. so your child will not stay up all night in chat rooms. Parents need to monitor wireless activity online or via bills. Know who your kids are talking to. Know your child’s passwords. Most importantly, talk to your child about cyber bullying and sexting.
Even teens can be registered sex offenders for creating, distributing and possessing child pornography.
Most bullying goes unreported for fear of retaliation, shame or not wanting to worry their parents. Many parents don’t know until it is too late that their child was suffering alone, in silence.
When I was working in the school, I was amazed at how much school educators had to deal with these problems. A lot of the things did not rise to a law enforcement level.
There were kids feeling depressed, angry and seeking retaliation for harassment projected at them through social media or texting. I saw kids crying because someone was using Facebook to spread rumors. I took information off children’s cell phones of harassment and bullying.
Community Policing Officer Bonnie Beste shares information with the community. You can leave a voicemail for her at (715) 395-7401.