Monday, January 26, 2009

More discussion on Cyber Bullying

The Norla Blog has commented on attorney Sam McAllister’s recent blog article Cyber Bullying on the Rise. I find myself in agreement with a couple of Norla’s points.

  • In 2007, the Arkansas legislation passed a law allowing school officials to take action against cyber bullies even if the bullying did not originate or take place on school property.

This one makes no sense to me. What does the school administration have to do with electronic transmissions that occur off the premises?

This reinforces the point. We’ve had some of that ‘aspirin-ibuprofen’ type silliness in Bossier Parish in recent years.

  • The existence of the disease is doubtful, and the cure is far, far worse.

I have to say that I am pretty far removed from my teen years and realize that it is a different world out there now. I have no idea how far the cyber influence goes, as when I was in school there was no ‘cyber’.

I do realize that internet talk can lead to real situations. This past weekend, according to a source, saw a convergence of Haughton and Airline ‘tough guys’ on Princeton Road, apparently for a gang fight. This was apparently was fired by their interaction on some ‘social networking’ sites. When a couple of guns were fired it got serious. Police were called, but I don’t know if the kids all left the scene before they got there.

In this case, it sounds like everyone involved was ‘bullying’.

In an attempt to see how, if at all, this is being addressed locally, I checked the Attorney General’s website (nothing) and the Caddo DA’s website (nothing).

The Bossier Parish DA, while emphasizing sexual predators, also covered Cyberspace in general.


  • Place the computer in a central area of the house such as the family room, den or kitchen.
  • Establish specific times when access to the Internet is permitted and keep that schedule.
  • If your child uses a computer at school, call and see if his or her school has adopted an “acceptable use policy” for the Internet. Use this policy as a tool to establish guidelines at home.
  • Limit the length of access time. This will encourage your child to go directly to the information required, rather than aimlessly wander or surf the Internet.
  • Explain to your children that many sites on the Internet are not appropriate for children or young adults, and they are expected to stay away from them.
  • Make it clear to your child you are aware that there is pornographic material on the Internet, and that looking at such material is forbidden.
  • Explain that if the sites’ address has adult language in it, the site is not to be visited.
  • If the child has access to a credit card, instruct the child never to give it out over the Internet.
  • Instruct your child to talk to you if he or she ever finds anything on the Internet that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Encourage communication with your children. Ask about their Internet experiences and what they have learned.

Red Flags

  • Secretive behavior on the computer.
  • You feel unwelcome at an on-line session.
  • Unexplained loss of capacity on the computer’s hard-drive. (It may be crowded with pornographic image files, which are typically very large).
  • A sudden new friend you don’t know.
  • Excessive time on the Internet.
  • Hidden floppy or Zip disks which may be used for storage of inappropriate or illegal files.

I personally don't know when 'Cyber-bullying' becomes a genuine threat, or what legal remedies are available under existing laws. I think defining the difference is important; a little name calling is one thing, but a credible physical threat is something else. Are there laws in place to deal with this or do we indeed need to consider more?

I read The Norla Blog daily (the link is in the sidebar). If you haven’t read it yet, check it out.


  1. This is a great followup article Jim!

    I have a story in which cyberbullying became a threat. The "bully" repeatedly emailed and messaged to the person after being told to leave said person alone. When the "bully" was blocked, he used different avenues, like sending repeated fax messages to said person's office, and by using said person's office website (contact form) so that said person could not block the "bully."

    Said person tried every avenue to avoid receiving messages from the bully, but the more said person did so, the worse the messages became. Unfortunately, said person did not have the luxury of simply turning off the computer because said person uses the computer for work.

    Said person took the messages to the police, who saw a legitimate harrassment charge by the repeated messages and "comments" made on different websites by the "bully." A call was made by a police officer to the "bully" to stop. Then, the "bully's" messages and comments escalated to death threats (not a very bright bully). The police charged the "bully" with cyberstalking.

    Granted, this is only ONE example and a terrible one, indeed. I agree that general name calling is not enough to warrant any sort of action, but what I have seen in my office is what I described above - that is, bullying of a serious nature (to both teenagers and adults).

    Great story on the Haughton/Airline guys. A lot of the bullying is done on Myspace and Facebook pages, and before long, it ends up in something that either borderlines or constitutes threats, extreme harassment, or intentional infliction of emotional distress.

    As far as legislation goes, I think we need to toughen up on cyberstalking laws and work on better methods to prosecute individuals who do this sort of thing. One difficulty is when you have an individual who lives in another state doing the cyberstalking. It is extremely difficult to extradite the person to your state for arrest/sentencing. Also, the police have to issue subpoenas to different websites like MSN mail, Hotmail, Myspace, Google, Yahoo, etc. in order to determine where the "bully" is sending the threatening messages from (and to make sure it is the person you believe it to be). It can be a huge hassle, very time consuming and also, costly for the police. Hopefully, as we move into a more "cyber" literate generation, it will become easier.

    Just some additional thoughts!
    Thanks for the comments; great discussion!

  2. Ive seen her around and she could write the earth was square and I'd believe it.
    Mrs mcallister is h-o-t.

  3. "What does the school administration have to do with electronic transmissions that occur off the premises?"

    nothing. but some of these laws give schools jurisdiction if the transmission somehow interferes with or affects the bullied child's school performance. that, in my opinion, is an amazingly vague standard i don not trust school administrators to handle.

    btw, thanks for the link.

  4. No problem, I enjoy your blog.

  5. These are some great tips Jim. My daughter is a victim of cyberbullying and it is upsetting to see that it really has shattered her confidence. I have found on some good ideas about stopping cyberbullying. I think that the most important thing to do to end cyberbullying for good is to make it well known and make it understood that it will not be tolerated.


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