Monroe County addresses the growing problem of “cyber bullying” in the online community with a summit Oct. 1
Push the smallest kid down. Steal someone else’s lunch money. Taunt them in the school yard.
Bullying has been around for centuries, but like so many other things, it's evolved with technology.
With more time being spent online, experts on the subject are saying "cyber bullying" – doing the bullying online – is becoming a greater issue for today's youth.
Monroe County will hold its first summit on the topic 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, Oct. 1 at the Monroe Community College campus in Brighton. There’s an evening
presentation 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Greece Olympia High School for parents and children.
"So much of communication between young people is now online because they are now living part of their lives online," said Nancy Willard, executive director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, who will offer three presentations at the event.
She said because kids spend so much time online, sometimes it’s difficult for them to realize that they are acting in a bullying behavior because they don’t associate it with their online lives.
Along with presentations led by Willard, Rochester Institute of Technology professor Samuel McQuade will offer results of a recent survey performed by RIT with school districts in Brighton, Fairport, East Irondequiot, the Diocese of Rochester and Newark, Wayne County.
Willard and McQuade pointed out that cyber bullying, while sounding simplistic, can act as a gateway to lead to greater online crimes like identity theft, credit card fraud, illegal downloading and academic dishonesty through cheating.
"We've empowered this generation with technology and they're using it, often times in very productive, responsible ways," said McQuade, who has worked with the U.S.
Department of Justice. "Unfortunately, many kids – thousands and perhaps millions – will slip into behavioral patterns that mirror deviant, abusive or even criminal practices."
In the RIT study, almost 14,000 respondents from kindergarten through 12th grade were surveyed about their use and behavior when it comes to technology.
McQuade said it was the largest survey of its kind that has ever been performed and provided key information to understanding how cyber bullying factors into the lives of children, including the fact that it begins for many kids as early as in second grade and as children get older, bullying others through electronics can easily spread to other forms of communication like cell phones.
"The more devices they use, the more time they spend online, the more social interactions that they have, the more they are advertently or inadvertently slipping into behavior that ... includes threats, harassment, intimidation or embarrassment," McQuade said.
To curb this kind of behavior, Willard stressed that adult assistance is crucial and it's important to tell children that it's not tattling if they get a parent involved in an issue.
Because there is an electronic trail with cyber bullying through e-mail, Web site history or documents saved on a computer, it's easier for parents to assist children who are subjects of harassment.
"The summit raises consciousness and addresses problem and hopefully we'll use this as a springboard for other partnerships and activities," McQuade said. "It's a bigger and more complicated problem than we ever imagined."
All community members are welcome, but registration is required to attend the summit. For more information or to register, contact Fred Rion at (585) 753-3752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is cyber bullying?
According to Nancy Willard, executive director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, cyber bullying can have three easy-to-understand definitions:
• Sending or posting material that is harmful or cruel to others or engaging in cruel acts using technology;
• Online social aggression;
• Kids being mean to other kids online.
Where does cyber bullying often happen?
Willard pointed out social networking sites like Facebook.com and MySpace.com as popular places on the Web. She also said instant messaging and text messaging through cell phones are common ways of cyber bullying.
How can parents prevent cyber bullying?
Rochester Institute of Technology professor Samuel McQuade suggests three steps for parents:
• Take an active interest in computing and cell phone activities of children
• Engage children about what and who they interact with online
• Don't rely on filtering or blocking applications
• Keep a family computer in a central location
Where can you get more information?
Web sites with useful information can be found at the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use at csriu.org and the Rochester Regional Cyber Safety and Ethics Initiative at rrcsei.org.