Cyber-Bullying Is A Growing Menace To Kids

Mary Ellen Handy had an old-fashioned fight over a boy, but it took place on high-tech turf. Insults were hurled at her online.

"You're a whore. You're a slut. I can't believe you took my boyfriend," says Handy, a student.

It's called cyber-bullying, and thanks to technology, abuse spread farther and faster — and can be devastating, CBS News science and technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg reports.

"I started throwing up. I couldn't eat, and I got really sick," Handy says. "I got these stomach problems."

Eighth-grader Ryan Halligan took it even harder when a rumor about him spread through the Web.

"It was like a feeding frenzy. Kids who normally didn't bully got in on the fun, both at school and online," his father, John, explains.

John Halligan believes depression from cyber-bullying contributed to his son's suicide at age 13. "My son was a sweet, sensitive kid," Halligan says. "That's just who he was."

"Too often kids face cyber-bullies all by themselves, in the dark, staring at the screen," says Parry Aftab of Wiredsafety.org.

Aftab, an expert in online safety for kids, says cyber-bullying is a growing menace — one that schools have trouble controlling because it usually starts off campus.

"And you know what? They're right. When it comes to changing some laws, we need to give schools a little more jurisdiction if what starts out at home has an impact at school," Aftab says.

There are solutions online. Many social-networking sites forbid abusive language. If bullying is reported, the perpetrator's account can be shut down. Parents can also install spy software to monitor their kids' messages. There's even a service that promises to search out and destroy hurtful comments.

But what finally worked for Mary Ellen was a low-tech solution: bigger kids telling the bully to back off.

"If it wasn't for them, I don't know if it would've stopped," she says.

It proves that whether in the schoolyard or on the Internet, bullies can be beat.



You can read more about how to stop cyber-bullying at The Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use.

  • Melissa McNamara

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