Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Cyberbullying targeted

Cyberbullying targeted
It is added as focus of Power in You program
By Tiffany EricksonDeseret Morning News
Lisa Read said she lived with harassment and fear for a month as anonymous calls habitually haunted her during the night.

Kevin Lee, for the Deseret Morning News
Utah's first lady, Mary Kaye Huntsman, discusses the Power in You foundation, which works on helping youths deal with issues like bullying, substance abuse and suicide. A ring would jolt her out of bed, and a male caller would make suggestive and harassing comments that left her uneasy. The caller knew her ex-boyfriends, that she was on the dance team and where she went to school, but refused to reveal his identity. "I felt unsafe in school, violated and disrespected from such cowardly and faceless acts," said the Taylorsville High School student. After about a month, the phone stopped ringing. But the experience was unwelcome and offensive — and a prime example of the kind of cyberbullying a large number of students deal with every day. Mary Kaye Huntsman announced Tuesday that cyberbullying is a new category in her Power in You foundation, a youth program that addresses issues such as substance abuse, suicide, bullying, gangs and eating disorders, and directs students to resources that can provide support. Cyberbullying includes using technology such as telephones, instant messages, Web pages, digital cameras and e-mail to harass, hurt or threaten people — something experts say has touched more than a third of U.S. teens who use the Internet. "When we think back, our biggest concern was checking 'yes' or 'no' on notes and not getting caught," Leigh VandenAkker, a teacher at Taylorsville High, said during a Power in You press conference. "Notes are the least of our worries now — enter the world of technology." Huntsman said she hopes to make parents aware of the growing problem of cyberbullying while teaching teens what they can do to protect themselves. Capt. Chris Ahearn of the Utah Attorney General's Office said cyber-harassment, threats and exploitations are taken seriously in Utah.

He said many people who engage in cyberbullying incorrectly assume they can remain anonymous. But thanks to technology, officials can zero in on and prosecute offenders. If someone finds themselves a victim of cyberbullying, they should not retaliate and, if possible, stop using the site all together. And if a victim receives threats or suggestions of a sexual nature, they should contact law enforcement. "There are really a lot of cool things going on with technology — this is your sandbox, but you have to play nicely. Otherwise, you can't play," said Steve Fletcher, chief information officer over technology for the state of Utah. For more information on what to do and how to report cyberbullying, visit

No comments: