Cyber bullying pushes many teens over the edge

Posted by: Sally Pitts - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Bullying has been around for a long time, but now it has taken a more disturbing turn - to the internet and cell phones.  Now, there's no safe haven at home after a day of bullying at school. Teens can harass each other 24-7.

"They've been rough," says Jill Moore talking about the six months since her daughter Alex died on May 12. Alex walked from her home to a bridge over Interstate 65 in Chilton County and jumped to her death. Jill says it was bullying that forced her daughter over the edge.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds and it's fifth for those between the ages of 5 to 14. A Yale University study has even found a connection between being bullied and suicidal thoughts among children. Recently, across the country, at least a dozen teenagers have committed suicide after unrelenting fellow classmates bullied and taunted them.

Now - the same technology that young people flock to "Facebook, Myspace, cell phones," makes bullying that much easier.

Dr. Kathy Robinson is a visiting professor at Auburn University. She's done extensive research on cyber bullying. "Anyone can be a cyber bully. You can sit behind a computer. You don't have to be big or strong," Robinson explained. And children can't escape it once they leave school. The internet gives bullies an outlet 24/7.

"There is an infinite audience..." Robinson said.

Research shows bullying affects from 9 to 54% of children. Dr. Robinson believes cyber bullying can leave even deeper emotional scars than traditional bullying, but she says children are often afraid to report cyber bullying. The reason? "They don't want to have their phone or internet privileges taken away."

Jill mMore doesn't know if Alex was a victim of cyber bullying, but she is concerned about how difficult it is for victims to get away from their tormentors. Now, she's fighting to get a law passed that makes bullying a crime. She says she doesn't want her daughter's death to be in vain...

If children won't report bullying, how do parents or friends find and stop it? There are signs to look for. If the child stops using the cell phone or computer, doesn't want to go to school or appears depressed or angry they may be victims of bullies.  Those are just a few of the red flags. Dr. Robinson says it's important for both the victim and the bully to seek help.

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