Cyberbullying Starts Earlier Than You Think - WSPA.com

Cyberbullying Starts Earlier Than You Think

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If you think your child is too young to be at risk, think again. People working in schools right here in the Upstate say cyber harassment peaks in 4th grade and again in 7th grade. If you think your child is too young to be at risk, think again. People working in schools right here in the Upstate say cyber harassment peaks in 4th grade and again in 7th grade.
GREENVILLE, S.C. -

At least nine teen suicides in the past year have been linked to cyberbullying.

One 12-year-old Florida girl jumped to her death after classmates bullied her online for more than a year, telling her to "drink bleach and die."

If you think your child is too young to be at risk, think again. People working in schools right here in the Upstate say cyber harassment peaks in 4th grade and again in 7th grade.

‘”Just put a bag over your thin-lipped little slack-jaw bug-eyed face and eat something, you're pathetic,’" Karly reads off a computer screen. She’s asked 7 On Your Side not to use her last name out of fear of being further victimized.

This is one of the Facebook messages she would come home to after a day of getting bullied at school.

She tried blocking her bully on Facebook, but it didn't stop.

“This is like a random name on Facebook that I have no idea who it is,” she said, looking over a message.

She said her bully created fake profiles and sent her messages.

“I would just sit at the computer and cry. And my mom would, just like I said, tell me, 'Stop reading it, it's not going to help,’” said Karly.

Karly stopped going to school and started believing what the bully said about her.

“There were times when I hated myself so much that I considered suicide," said Karly.

In Spartanburg, it's a fear mother Tracy Ayers is wrestling with right now.

“I don't want to let my daughter keep going through it and I come in here to wake her up from school …and she's already done something,” said Ayers.

Ayers did the only thing she felt she could to save her daughter, Kayla McAbee, from becoming a statistic.

“It's like I had no clue what to do except for pull my child from school," said Ayers.

Kayla’s home is her new classroom. She's taking her 9th grade classes online now.

On Facebook, the bullying continues.

“They were posting stuff about how I was so chicken I couldn't even come to school anymore," said Kayla.

She said the girls post public statuses on Facebook for everyone to see, calling her names so inappropriate we can't publish them.

“At school, when they say something to you, the whole school can't see it. So I think it's worse because then everybody can see and it's more embarrassing," said Kayla.

Fifteen percent of teens say they've been cyberbullied within the past year.

Rick Floyd is a former cop who investigated computer crimes. Now we works for Greenville County Schools.

“Cyberbullying, unlike bullying, can happen 24 hours a day. They can't walk away from it," said Floyd.

There is a law in South Carolina that gives schools the power to take action against a cyberbully. The Safe School Climate Act allows schools to step in if the cyberbullying creates a problem on campus.

Many students like Kayla say telling the principal only makes cyberbullying worse.

Here are some specific ways you can help if your child becomes a victim of cyberbullying, from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:

  • Print out and save records of the bullying. If there's an investigation, you'll need evidence of what was posted.
  • Try setting up a new account for your child. Make sure they only give the new information to friends they trust.
  • Report it to the website or app where the harassment is taking place.
  • Talk to your child's school. The Safe School Climate Act allows schools to step in if the cyberbullying interferes on campus.
  • If the cyberbullying becomes severe enough, reach out to law enforcement.

Your kids probably won't come to you if they’re being cyberbullied. Only one in 10 tell someone, some afraid their computers or phones will be taken away.

“If they come to you, they're at a point where it's probably pretty bad at that time. So listen to them and offer solutions and look for help," said Floyd.

He said some parents use tracking software to monitor their kids’ online activity.

For those who feel like there's no escape, Karly has a message about surviving high school.

“Life's definitely better. I'm glad I didn't give up in high school just because of all the stuff that happened because there's so much more to experience in life," said Karly.

A life not defined by messages meant to hurt.

Discussion Starters

Here’s a list of discussion starters from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to get a conversation about cyberbullying going with your child:

  • Why do you think people cyberbully?
  • How does your school deal with cyberbullying?
  • Have you ever sent a mean message because you were upset?
  • What would you do if someone created a mean, fake profile for you or one of your friends?
  • How can you stop yourself from being cyberbullied?
  • Who would you talk to if it happened to you?

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