Cracking Down on Cyberbullying

By: Sherene Tagharobi Email
By: Sherene Tagharobi Email

Most kids these days can't remember a time without cell phones or computers. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be if those tools are used in the wrong ways.

"We need to encourage youth to embrace technology, learn how to use it, but much like a knife in your kitchen, it's a great tool but has a sharp edge," said Sgt. Joshua Lator of Michigan State Police.

We've seen that sharp edge surface in the form of cyberbullying. In fact, it happens so often that Michigan State Police are training Lansing Police Officers in how to handle it.

"It's faceless," said Lansing Police Officer Jessica Showers, who just completed her training. "I don't have to come up to you and say it. I can just put it on facebook now."

Representative Mark Meadows has been trying to pass an anti-bullying bill for the past four years. It would require schools to adopt a bullying policy based on parent input.

"It's a much bigger problem because people feel they have a freedom to harass or insult and they can't be caught," he said.

It used to be that bullying was contained to school grounds. You go home and leave the bullying behind. But cell phones and social media have made that impossible. Law enforcement says that's where parenting comes in.

"If you have a cell phone you can get texts from a bully, you can receive unwanted photos from a bully, things can be said online by a bully," said Sgt. Lator.

Officer Shower says parents should be more involved in their kids' lives, especially when it comes to technology.

"Like 'Who are you talking to? Why are you on the phone texting at 12:30 at night when you should be getting some sleep, getting ready for school?'" she asked.

Meadows' bill, also known as Matt's Safe School Law, came after East Lansing resident Matt Epling committed suicide after being the target of bullying. Meadows says the bill may have not have saved his life, but it couldn't hurt.

"The absence of a policy doesn't help prevent this from happening," he said.

Meadows has been working on two separate bills: one on bullying and another specifically about cyberbullying.

He plans to reintroduce both of them this session.


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