There’s a flood of texts that teens are sending back and forth these days on their cell phones, computers and tablets.
But not all of them rate an LOL (Laughing Out Loud).
Some are downright unfriendly.
Words can hurt, as parents, administrators and teachers learned at a recent local forum to discuss cyber bullying.
With the rise of texting and social media, there has been a recent nationwide wave of adolescent suicides as a direct resultr of cyber bullying.
The forum tackled the issue, hosted by Community Board 10, Senator Jeff Klein and Perry Aftab, an attorney specializing in cyber-crime and children’s issues.
Klein said he decided to bring a national problem to the local level to get community perspective.
“This is a problem far larger than I ever thought when I first got involved,” he said. “In my day, if you had a problem with someone, you met after school, you handled it, and more often than not you became fast friends. Now, you have herds of invisible bullies behind Facebook and cell phones.”
The senator introduced legislation in the Senate earlier this year to update New York’s stalking and harassment laws to cover electronic bullying.
“Stalking and aggravated harassment are misdemeanor offenses in New York, why should this be any different,” he said. “We are just bringing those laws into the digital age.”
Klein said he discovered there is no existing data on cyber bullying, and with his four-member Independent Democratic Conference, has put together surveys for students to talk about the issue.
“We are giving students the ability to help craft new laws regarding cyber bullying to make them better,” he said at the forum, held April 19 at the Fort Schuyler House. Aftab said the best way to combat cyber bullying is to ask students how they would fix it.
Her organization Teen Angels helps to identify cyber bullying and works with companies such as Disney, Facebook and even Google to try and prevent it.
“Kids see things differently than we do, they can catch things we can’t,” she said. “There are 77 different ways a cell phone can be used to cyber bully.”
Most students don’t feel comfortable talking to a parent about being bullied, said Aftab, which is why having a group like the Teen Angels holding discussions and presentations is so important.
“Our teen angels know exactly how to ask the question, they are very specific, and when they ask, 97% of the time it has happened to them,” she said. “When parents ask, they say no because they hide it from us. We hid it from our parents.”
Aftab said she would like a local youth summit where students and her teen angels can try to come up with some solutions. “Words can kill,” she said. “
Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3394