Spectrum Article on Cyberbullying

November 14, 2013

CVHS gets proactive on cyberbullying

Cedar police open investigation into websites

Tracie Sullivan

tracie@thespectrum.com

Concerned about some social media websites that may be encouraging cyberbullying, Canyon View High School principal Rich Nielsen sent a letter home this week to parents saying his school has been working with the Cedar City attorney and police department to address the issue.

Jimmy Roden, public information officer for the Cedar City police department, confirmed Thursday the department has opened an investigation into the sites and is working to identify victims, witnesses and suspects.

Cyberbullying is information transferred by way of any electronic device with the intent of hurting, embarrassing, or threatening someone else. This information can vary from photos to written messages.

Other forms of cyberbullying include cyberstalking and cyberharassment.

In the letter sent to parents, Nielsen said the school has seen a “disturbing trend of anonymous hateful accounts being created and followed by 100s of kids.” He called these sites, located on Twitter and Facebook, “filth,” and encouraged parents to be aware of what their children are doing online. “I would ask all parents to be aware of your child’s use of Twitter and Facebook in following hateful accounts,” he wrote.

Nielsen told parents that some will dismiss these harmful messages as just “fun,” but there is nothing fun about being a target on the sites. Nielsen said he chose to take a proactive approach rather than brush it under the rug because he said he doesn’t want to see the situation get out of hand and spark a criminal incident.

Nielsen said he didn’t know of any student in Iron County ever being prosecuted for cyberbullying — but said he believes officials have been able to get a handle on prior situations before it became criminal.

However, he said students had been reprimanded with school consequences for cyberbullying behavior. “It’s our goal to keep every kid in school and to educate every student,” Nielsen said. “We aren’t looking for reasons to get them arrested and in the system. I don’t think we’ve had a situation yet that hasn’t stopped after we addressed it in the school, so we didn’t have to go that far.”

Nielsen said it’s difficult for him to think of some of his students participating in the type of behavior he’s seeing online.

“I see these kids in the hallways and there I have seen nothing but respect from these kids,” he said. “There, they wouldn’t say anything hurtful, so it’s hard for me to think about them behaving like that.”

Iron County Superintendent Shannon Dulaney said she appreciates Nielsen’s approach to the issue and is glad to see he is willing to do more than what state law mandates. Dulaney said she believes computers often empower people to say things they might not say in a face-to-face situation.

Most officials agree the answer to the issue lies with parents becoming actively engaged in their children’s lives, including online.

“Parents need to be responsible. We’re doing our part to monitor the kids at school, but if the parents are going to give these kids the use of this technology and devices, then there needs to be some oversight that goes with that,” Dulaney said.

Some parents maintain children need to “toughen up” and learn how to not take things so personally. Nielsen, however, said adults to need understand not all children are the same and some kids are more emotionally fragile than others. “Each kid is so different,” he said. “They don’t have a standard — some kids can’t stand up to the pressure.”

Canyon View will be holding two assemblies Thursday at 8 and 9 a.m. to address the issue of cyberbullying. Nielsen said he welcomes parents to join them.

Additional Facts

Online Resources

• NetSafeUtah:

http://www.netsafeutah.org/

• NetSmartz:

http://www.netsmartz.org/Safety/SafetyTips

• GetNetWise:

kids.getnetwise.org/safetyguide/

• FBI-Parent Guide:

http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/parent-guide/parent-guide

• Safekids:

http://www.safekids.com/