How can we prevent cyber bullying

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Good afternoon:

On September 9th, 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick jumped to her death from a tower at an abandoned cement plant in Polk County, Florida. She committed suicide because she could no longer endure a vicious campaign of cyber bullying by two girls and their friends. The two girls allegedly started bullying Rebecca because they were jealous of her relationship with a 13-year-old boy. The bullying continued for almost a year and persisted even after the relationship with the boy ended.

The case has been in the news recently because police arrested the two girls on Monday and charged them with aggravated stalking. The 12-year-old girl has publicly admitted she was wrong and apologized to Rebecca’s mother, but the 14-year-old girl posted a comment on Facebook acknowledging,

Yes ik I bullied REBECCA nd she killed her self but IDGAF!!!!

The Polk County Sheriff has publicly chastised the 14-year-old’s stepmother because she denied knowledge of the bullying and defended the girl saying her facebook account had been hacked.

He said “she doesn’t get it,” and “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

He said he is considering charging her with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

The stepmother was arrested yesterday and charged with two counts of child abuse for slugging two children. She claims that she was only attempting to break-up a fight between the two victims. The incident was captured on video.

Rebecca’s suicide has focused national attention on cyber bullying and internet stalking. Crane and I know something about that because certain members of the right-wing hate-machine have been stalking us for over a year. Some of our readers who have websites also have been targeted by obsessed and twisted haters.

People have different ways of dealing with the haters. I ignore them. Young people like Rebecca are more vulnerable and wound more easily. Teenagers lack maturity and can be especially cruel. In a culture where many people believe that it’s cool to be cruel, there can be little doubt that we will see more preventable tragedies like Rebecca’s.

The question is what, if anything, do we do about it?

Ironically, Mark O’Mara is in the news again for his effort to draft legislation that would hold parents accountable for cyber bullying by their children. The statute would create a duty to know what your kids are doing on line and criminalize a failure to prevent your kids from cyber bullying.

There are four major problems with this effort.

First, criminal laws traditionally prohibit certain acts accompanied by a particular mental state. One of the most basic principles of criminal law is that you have to know what you are doing when you commit a prohibited act. You do not have to know the act is prohibited, but you do have to know what you are doing when you commit the act.

Second, criminal laws traditionally do not create duties to supervise others and criminalize the failure to discover objectionable conduct and prevent it.

Third, many teenagers are more knowledgeable than their parents about using the internet and there are ways they can access the internet without their parent’s knowledge.

Fourth, are the police going to be monitoring internet activity to prevent cyber bullying and, if so, is that a good idea?

As a society, we have a tendency to respond to tragedies by enacting new criminal laws. However, criminal laws cannot solve all of our problems.

The importance of education and workshops in changing human behavior should not be underestimated.

What do you think?

42 Responses to How can we prevent cyber bullying

  1. JoJo says:

    Rebecca was my grand mothers boyfriends granddaughter . I remember her running around at our grand parents house with a smile on her face and nothing could stop her she was a little thing but after he passed we didn’t really see much of each other anymore . BUT MY POINT IT THAT BULLYING SHOULD BE ILLIGEAL THEY DRILL YOU ABOUT IT AT SCHOOL BUT ITS NOT AGAINST THE LAW ?? This is not the first time a young beautiful girl did this. and another thing school is their to help you better your self in life to make something of you self. but instead ignorant teens with no life morals or values want to pick on other kids because they think they are better because they have always got what they wanted . its not about what you do and don’t have its about what you make out of what you do have . and stop bullying people because you think you are better because in reality your not because you have to taunt people in front of other people to make you look good because you think they will think you are cool or a HARD ASS !!!! GROW UP ….

  2. Sheila John says:

    Holy Crap Rachel!!! I am in shock over here. How in THE hell did you even get convicted let alone actual jail/prison time!!!! Your case is the worse I ever heard of. Why isn’t this on the Today show or CBS This Morning or Dateline or 48 Hours??????
    I never knew that Kentucky was this EFFED UP and BACK COUNTRY STUPID!
    Oh man I’m so sorry this all happened to you! Let’s all pray that something happens to these crooked bastards that leads to you getting a big award (financial!). I’m stunned. Just totally stunned. A harsh DUI sentence without the fricken impairment or illegal substance!!!! OMFG.

  3. ay2z says:

    Bullying and anti some particular human appearance factor tagged to race or genetic pedigree (ie: race) combined in this story out of Britain.

    Cell phones aren’t the problem, ‘cyber’ isn’t the root cause of a bully’s tactics.

    Begs the question, how can cyber bullying be stopped without undertanding and getting at the root cause of a bully’s actions?

    Apparently in Britain, bullies take on children with red hair, an ongoing, periodic ‘phenomenon’ of ‘ lingering anti-Celtic prejudice.’

    Attacks on red-haired children prompt call to British police
    The Associated Press Posted: Oct 18, 2013 4:56 PM ET

    British police say they were called after a string of attacks on red-haired pupils at a school in northern England.

    South Yorkshire Police said in a statement Friday the force had been alerted to last week’s assaults at Wingfield Academy in the town of Rotherham, about 260 kilometres north of London.

    It said a small number of pupils had sustained minor injuries after being attacked by fellow students. No arrests were made, but police said they had given some of the students involved a talking to, while the school said it condemned the attacks.

    The issue of bullying of red-haired children periodically arises in Britain, and some commentators have attributed the phenomenon to lingering anti-Celtic prejudice.

    • dianetrotter says:

      Sounds like gang mentality to me. Back in the 90s, a three year old was killed because his hair was red. Crips/blood thuggery.

  4. dianetrotter says:

    I forgot, one of my students came to me during lunch and told me she wanted to talk to me about bullying. She told me half of what happened and other students came in so she told me she would talk to me the next day. She hasn’t been to school in a week. She said she was involved in a bullying incident when she was 8 years old. Her mother died somehow related to that bullying incident. The girls is absent a lot. I hope she is ok. (I misposted on Better gitty-up – sorry!)

    • You all have thoughtful comments says:

      Do you have a counselor at your school who can help her?

      • dianetrotter says:

        We have counselors who are helpful. When she comes back to school, if she comes back, I will purse getting help for her.

        • ay2z says:

          Isn’t there someone in the school who has the authority to try to assure she is ok instead of waiting until, or if, she shows up again?

          Her mother’s death was no excuse, cause nor reason for bullying but bullies can use anything that makes someone more vulnerable to being hurt. It’s despicable and only related to the bully in the bully’s methods of attackm to hit out where it hurts, wherever that is.

          JMHO. But I would not put it past ignorant authorities to attach some sort of stigma if there is anything. We see already what happens to rape victims being blamed for their own problems, i: football players and cover ups.

          Sounds like this student needs someone not attached to the school that she can trust, with zero appearance of or real conflict of interest.

          • dianetrotter says:

            You are probably right. It sounded like adults might have gotten involved after the kids had a fight. I will talk to her counselor tomorrow to see what she knows.

  5. dianetrotter says:

    I tried to have a discussion on bullying in all of my classes last week. by asking probing questions. It was a bad idea. Students who are not bullied or who bully others were making jokes. The students who are bulled sat silently and some looked frustrated. As soon as I see something that resembles bullying in class, I call it out. I try to make sure all kids are safe in my classroom.

    I show them emails sent to me and evaluations done by administrators to show how I am being bullied. I think the best think to do is call it out while it is happening.

    • You all have thoughtful comments says:


      As I recall, you teach at the high school level (?)

      I can imagine how difficult it is for you to deal with entrenched bullying that was NEVER addressed by teachers in your students’ earlier school years.

      Very early on, children need to be given the tools to deal with bullying. Both victims of bullying and potential bullies need to be given guidance that will lead to self worth.

      Self esteem and empathy need to be developed early in life in order to reduce bullying and the effects of bullying on the victims.

      Elementary school teachers need to join together with their PTA leadership to begin programs that promote self esteem and encourage empathy.

      I remember how we memorized the poem “If” in 6th grade. This activity along with our teacher’s wise guidance during discussion of the poem, had a profound effect upon all of us.


      If you can keep your head when all about you
      Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
      If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
      But make allowance for their doubting too;
      If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
      Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
      Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
      And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

      If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
      If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
      If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
      And treat those two impostors just the same;
      If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
      Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
      Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
      And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

      If you can make one heap of all your winnings
      And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
      And lose, and start again at your beginnings
      And never breathe a word about your loss;
      If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
      To serve your turn long after they are gone,
      And so hold on when there is nothing in you
      Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

      If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
      Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
      If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
      If all men count with you, but none too much;
      If you can fill the unforgiving minute
      With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
      Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
      And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

      by Rudyard Kipling

      After note: Too many children who fear being bullied, end up being followers of the bully in order to avoid ever being a victim.

      it sounds as if this is the case for those in your class who were not victims of bullying and yet joined in with the bullies who were joking.

      • dianetrotter says:

        Yes YAHTC, there are cliques that seem to share one brain. PTA … you must be kidding. Schools in impoverished neighborhoods seldom have a parent org. When there is a parent group, parents of bullied students seldom participate. I try to share my experiences to make students feel comfortable talking to me about what is going on. I’ve had a couple of successes but don’t know the percentage.

  6. racerrodig says:

    I have a real issue with bullies. I was bullied pretty good back when I was about 6 or so to about 13. Dad being a cop was not cool back in the 60’s and early 70’s when kids I knew had older siblings busted for pot and such. The answer was beat me up or harass me to no end……..that is until dad taught me how to inflict intense pain when attacked by twisting an ear, or just grab the guy by the belt anywhere from hip to hip and lift like hell. He looks like a bunny rabbit hopping around.

    Anyway, This topic is very intense as my son (yesh) asked me to play bass guitar in his band and I just did a lead sheet for a song about bullying and the like. His lead singer brought the song to me last week and I’d never heard it before. The irony is that the biggest bully in their school loves this song.

    Colin is right that we can’t end bullying. Some kids do have a cruel streak in them and pick on anyone who looks vulnerable. Didn’t we all agree Fogen is nothing but a shithead bully?? Look how that ended up. The difference is that he killed someone. With kids, they drive others to suicide. I can say I had those thoughts many years ago dealing with 2 of the worst bullies imaginable. The end however is that they both have been in prison and one died in prison before he was 40. Picked on the wrong guy I heard.

    Fogen sexually assaulted his cousin and I’m sure he bullied her as well not to mention threats about dropping a dime on him. How many kids had suicidal thoughts because of him in school ??

    What is the answer ?? Education ?? Punishment ?? Part of it is the lack of parenting, that I do know for sure.

    This is beyond sad. Irregardless of the reason someone is bullied, it hurts, and many times very badly. We are all born with a psyche and some are fragile and many change daily. Nobody has a right to mess with somebodies psyche for their sheer entertainment.

  7. colin black says:

    Sorry commented b4 reading post .
    Whilst the advent of social networking has made bulling more intrusive.

    The Kids that hate on you at school can hate on you on twitter an face book.

    This is not a knew phenonima .

    An we can no more end cyber bulllieing with tragic resuts like this.

    That we could when teens commited suiside in the 50s because of rumours an lies .

    Some people are going to comit suiside for whatever a broken heat.

    So if they hear there fiancés dumped them on eve of the wedding either by

    A letter slipped under his hotel door his fiace of five years has eloped with his Broth .
    Or he gets the exact same info left on his answer phone or in an e mail.

    Whatever way he learns he is devastated an blows his brains out .

    Same thing dureing the wall street crash many brokers commited suside diveing from office buildings after reading a wire informing them there fortunes had vanished cant blame the invention of the wire

    Its sad bad pandoras box has opened an the net is just another communication tool like the letter.
    Or town crer an newapapers phones an .

    As such will be used by to convey both joyus messages an sad info to each other .

    An some people copmmit suiside no matter how the info that tips them over the edge was heard.

    By ear word to mouth by phone I even heard a cheiftian commited suiside after his bbbbbbongo communication drums informed him the British had killed ten thousand of his best warriors in a day with 70 men using maxim guns both he an his wife drank poison.

    Nope we cannot lay the blame for suiside at the feet or dials n buttons of any manmade contraption suiside is an entirely human condition.

  8. colin black says:

    Ignore it like all bullies are cowards cybey bullies are doubley cowardly.

    In the real world bullies being cowards will target only those they think are weaker an unable to defend them selfs.

    But cyber bullies although still cowards but with a sagfe guard of anoninimty can an do target whomever whenever with out any fear of retaliation.

    So say the most hurtfull insulting inane pain in the ass verbage they can.

    So the thrill they receive from cyber bullying is shock an awe value only .

    Ignore them an there ability to bully and or disrupt is gone.

    Easier said than done not so.

    To not respond even not to read just scroll past .Never engage never try to argue the repulsiveness of there viewpoint.

    Is by far the easy thing to do .

    Don’t take the higher ground don’t even share the same ground wth them.

    Unless you engage and show outrage at there reabid frothing at the mouth hate they are powerless.

    A CYBER BULLY CAN NOT Exisist in a vacuum on the net or on a forum he or she needs the oxegen of attention to exist.

    Without it there history.

  9. Xena says:

    @Professor. Thank you for your understanding.

    I also ignore by blacklisting, but when they began using proxy IP addresses, their comments go into moderation queue where I then blacklist that IP address.

    Just so you know, to-date, I’ve had at least 7 proxy services handle the situation. That means that the harassers must find another proxy IP service. They don’t take the hint. Their continuation of doing so adds to the counts of intentional harassment.

  10. shyloh says:

    I don’t know the answer. My children are grown and pretty much behave them self ha.

    Now I have adult neighbors who harass us and have for 4 years. WHY? We are probably the only one’s on the block that don’t do METH. And on Oct the 10th, one neighbor aimed a firearm at my daughter. What did the cops do. One, they took their sweet time in getting here so she called 911. The only thing the cop was concerned was her calling 911, and told her if he goes over there and it’s not a real guy he was going to arrest her. Then he was going to turn the tape over to the state’s attorney for misuse of 911. I said fine. Still waiting for her arrest and for them to allow her to file a complain which the cops refused. They just refuse to punish those people. Let’s see about 14 people against 2 females UGH. The cop didn’t know what harassment meant. Said he never heard of it. REALLY?

    So bullying isn’t just for kids anymore!!

  11. Xena says:


    People have different ways of dealing with the haters. I ignore them.


    Some of our readers who have websites also have been targeted by obsessed and twisted haters.

    There are times that taking action to discourage or hinder the haters is necessary so that they are not emboldened to attack others. What I mean by taking action for blog administrators, is first blacklisting the IP address and if the harassers come through using another IP address, filing complaints with the ISPs or hosting companies assigned the IP addresses used to submit harassing comments.

    And professor, in the harassment and threats, the haters use what they do to you as an example to threaten what they will do to others unless they abandon their blogs and stop commenting on your blog.

    Candidly, there are blog administrators who have made their blogs private, and/or became inactive, and/or have stopped posting comments here, because of harassment and threats that use you as an example.

    Have you noticed?

    About half of the harassing comments submitted to my blog where the IP address has not been blacklisted, demean and mock you, Crane, or something posted on your blog. It’s not merely calling you names, either.

    Some blog administrators have contacted me. We need to organize to report harassment. We need to do that for the sake of current and future blog administrators.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say too, is why should others be harassed and have to explain in complaints the subject of the harassment when the subject chooses to ignore harassment?

    Truly, I hope you take this comment as one of compassion and concern as it is intended.

  12. OT: Erin Cox, an outstanding high school volleyball player in Massachusetts returned to action after serving a 5-game suspension of her school’s zero-tolerance alcohol and drug policy. She responded to a request for a ride home from a friend at a party who had too much to drink and had the misfortune of arriving just ahead of the cops.

    Despite the suspension, she said she “wouldn’t change a thing,” if she could do it over again.

    Cox had 16 assists in her team’s 3-0 win last night.

  13. bettykath says:

    I think education about cyber bullying – what it is and how harmful it is would help. It’s already ok to report physical bullying and teachers and parents are urged to intervene. Cyber bullying should get the same treatment.

    If it can be shown that the parents know about the bullying but do nothing about it, the parents should be charged as well and those doing the bullying.

    Emails can be traced (I’ve exposed a couple of people who claimed to be someone else). FB is easily hacked if the account is left open and someone else uses the same computer or if passwords are shared. I don’t know how else fb would be hacked.

  14. Two sides to a story says:

    Education, education, education. Most middle and high schools have social issues classes or sometimes “home room” presentations that deal with stuff like this. My four kids went through numerous programs and classes in high school that addressed anything from soup to nuts – regular bullying, drug use, birth control, you name it.

    And sometimes it takes prosecution, prosecution, prosecution for kids who bully and their parents too, if necessary.

    • What if both parents work and do not know what the child is doing?

      • bettykath says:

        Parents should have the passwords for their children’s accounts and should do periodic checks before or after work. This would help identify if their child is a bully or the victim of a bully.

        • What if the child has more than one account in more than one name?

          • bettykath says:

            ok. Kids lie, especially those likely to be bullies. And maybe even victims. Parents have a responsibility to pay attention to their kids. If Mom or Dad is a bully, chances are one or more kids are also bullies. Parents won’t do the job in this case.

            Aren’t parents who know. but who do nothing to stop it, accomplices? They should have the responsibility to stop it. If they don’t, they need to be held accountable along with their children.

            I don’t know what should be done in cases where the kids lie or their parents are just to busy working to pay the rent and feed the kids to pay attention to their cyber activity.

            A blanket law of holding the parents accountable as well as the perpetrator is bound to grab some innocents. An effective law that is also fair would require more complex thought processes than I’m able to accomplish. Teamwork might work, with everyone asking the questions of how the current proposal doesn’t take some important factor into account, e.g. what if…., as you are doing.

            Cyber bullying should be handled on the same level as physical bullying. Our society’s attitudes need to catch up and so do the laws.

          • I oppose on principle charging parents with a crime when their children commit a crime. The only exceptions that I would support are if one solicits the other to commit a crime or they act as accomplices in committing a crime.

            Most parents probably would not know their child was cyber bullying another child. Charging them with a crime would shift the burden of proof and force them to prove their innocence.

          • bettykath says:

            I think we agree. If parents act in some way as accomplices they should be charged for their actions. Non-acting parents face consequences if they act as parents when their child/ren are charged.

      • Soulcatcher says:

        What if both parents work and do not know what the child is doing?

        Hopefully they are at school, if not, parents can be fined or thrown in jail if their child cuts school. You can drop them off there, but that doesn’t mean they will stay. Let hope they don’t open someones mailbox and take the mail on the way home, you as the parent can be prosacuted if they do.

        You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, no longer applies. If dropping your child off at school doesn’t work, be prepared to sit in each class. I suppose if your child is cyber bullying, you will then be expected to follow your child and police their daily activities or hire someone to do so. Most kids will stop when facing the prospect of mom or pop attending school with them, those that continue IMO have issues already that will need further action.

        Not saying we didn’t do things we shouldn’t have done back in the day, but times have changed, from bringing a pack of ciggaretes to school to bringing knives and guns. We had word of mouth, now there is the internet and cell phones. We had fist fights and name calling, now there is drive-by shootings and bombings.

        Back in the day we got spanked or a good ass whoopin, know CPS is one call away.

        • Soulcatcher says:

          Mr Soulcatchers response to CPS is one call aways is…..You got to get to the phone first, and before I go to jail, you can be sure I’m going to kick your ass.

          He says him and his 7 brothers and sisters got theirs plenty growing up, and they all became well educated, upstanding adults. I agree.

        • gblock says:

          soulcatcher, a lot of cyberbullying is done by kids aged 11 and up. A lot of it does not happen at school. Most likely, the bullies mostly do it at home or at the houses of friends. Texting may be an exception – kids are usually not supposed to text in class, but teachers seem to be helpless to prevent all texting during school hours.

          The point is, most of the kids involved are old enough that they do not get close adult supervision at all hours, and most of the cyberbullying activities probably take place when they are at home or at their friends’ houses. Is it really feasible for parents to be watching their teenaged kids every minute while they are using the computer?

          On a related note, I read that a few school districts in Southern California are now starting to use some kind of services that notifies school administrators of social media messages by their students that might indicate worrisome problems like cyberbullying, suicidal thoughts, or use of controlled substances. However, there are some serious privacy issues here, since a lot of the activities in question are occurring off of the school premises and outside of school hours. What kinds of things could school administrators be told about student activities and discussions that are really none of their business – for instance, remarks about teachers? In addition, the more technologically savvy of the students can probably find ways to evade this snooping.

          • Soulcatcher says:

            gblock, sorry for the confusion, I agree that most of the cyberbulling is not done at school. The point I was trying to make, is the fact that parents are responsible for the actions of their children, using school as an example. Should parents be held accountable for cyberbulling? I have mixed feelings on that one. I agree that teens are unsupervised for periods of time, parents may be unaware cyberbulling.

            On the otherhand, there is one child who seems to be remorsefull, and the issues of cyberbulling are probably resloved.
            By the response of the other girl, I’ll bet a pretty penny there have been other issues with this child, and the parents are aware of them. Perhaps at school, home, ect. How where they handled, did the parents ignore them, did they contribute to them? The stepmother has been arrested, so we can assume they do have other issues, and she could be responsible in part for the cyberbulling

    • Xena says:

      Law enforcement needs more education in cyber-bullying than the kids. The thing that makes it most difficult for students is that the bullies know them and they know the bullies. Reporting the bully subjects them to more bullying or the fear of retribution. For this reason, the bully cannot be merely pulled to the side and told to stop. Based on documented bullying, the bully needs to be removed and their internet or phone services suspended or limited by the service providing them.

    • towerflower says:

      I agree with the Professor on this one, it is never a slam dunk with kids these days. There is too much electronics available for them to accomplish the goal. Computers in the Library, school issued take home laptops, cell phones, friends cell phones, friends computers, it goes on and on.

      Face it when we were teens we did things without our parents knowing and I don’t feel that this is would be a good law, the only exception would be if they could prove that a parent was involved like in the case several years ago where a mother created a fake account to help her daughter in a bullying case.

      Some here in Central Florida also blamed the mother of the bullied girl. This mother did everything under her power to help and protect her daughter. She took it to the school and it continued, she took it to the police and it continued, she removed her daughter from school and home schooled her and it continued. She removed all electronic devices and she put her daughter in counseling. She said her daughter was getting better and was excited about a new school she started. The one thing the mother did not know was that the phone she had given her daughter, the daughter used to renew several on line accounts and then it continued again. The mother checked her phone but the daughter deleted the history so she was unaware that there new accounts and more harassment.

      Here you had someone who was proactive in her daughter’s life and tried everything in her power to protect her and it still happened.

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