You’re Not Alone: Police address rise in cyberbullying
According to Michigan State Police, one in five high schoolers in Michigan experience cyberbullying
LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Access to the internet and social media platforms is getting easier. While technology certainly has its perks, it also has its dangers for everyone, especially kids.
Michigan State Police tell News 10 a recent survey showed one in five Michigan high schoolers experienced cyberbullying. Michigan State Police Lt. Rene Gonzalez said cyberbullying could start with text messaging but said he sees a lot of cyberbullying on social media platforms like Facebook and X, formerly known as Twitter. Lt. Gonzalez said cyberbullying incidents are increasing, and sometimes the victim might not even know the perpetrator.
“They’re hiding behind fake names, that type of thing. Our cybercrime unit has ways of finding who this person is. It could be by finding the IP address. We can find them and we will find them if that’s the case,” Lt. Gonzalez said.
The impact that cyberbullying can have on someone is hard to measure. Jennifer Cronkite, a Senior Mental Health Therapist with Community Mental Health, said it can impact different people in different ways. She also spoke to how parents can address technology with their kids.
Cronkite said, “They’re using it at school, they’re using it to socialize, they’re using it for entertainment, and things just look different than they did 20 years ago. So figuring out how to be thoughtful, and have these conversations with our young people and figure out how to have a healthy relationship with tech, I think is really what we’re aiming for.”
Community Mental Health is just one of a number of resources in Mid-Michigan for those struggling and Cronkite hopes community members know there are people to talk to and trained professionals ready to help.
“We really want to be sure that parents in the whole community know that there are so many doors into mental health services for our kids and our families,” Cronkite said. She explained that Community Mental Health has a good relationship with law enforcement in the area and is happy that law enforcement agencies are adding social workers to their staffs.
Extreme cases of cyberbullying may lead victims to believe they have nowhere else to turn. A recent sextortion case in northern Michigan gained national attention when 17-year-old Jordan DeMay of Marquette took his own life. Two Nigerian brothers were extradited to Michigan and charged after prosecutors said they persuaded DeMay to send explicit photos online and threatened to make those images public if he didn’t pay them money. The two Nigerian Brothers, Samuel and Samson Ogoshi, pleaded not guilty to the charges on August 14th.
DeMay’s parents decided to speak out following Jordan’s death and hoped his story could save someone else’s life.
“If it could happen to Jordan, it could happen to anyone. I wanted to prevent any other child from being victimized and put that out there. As parents, if we didn’t know about sextortion, we were certain other parents didn’t know about it either and it was time to sit down and have a conversation,” said Jordan’s Mother, Jennifer Buta.
DeMay’s father Jordan, recently spoke to a group of cybersecurity experts at a symposium in Marquette and said, “Parents need to stop giving free, unfettered access to the internet to their children. It’s not safe for them. It’s not healthy for them.”
As for DeMay’s case, prosecutors aren’t sure how many more victims there could be, but they can still help track the criminals down with their cybercrime unit.
“Just because this guy or person is overseas or in a different state, it doesn’t tie our hands. We have experts in our cyberbullying unit that can do wonders. They can find that guy and then we’ll start working with the authorities,” said Lt. Gonzalez. “We don’t want a young adult or a child to feel like they can’t come to their parents because they’re scared.”
Lt. Gonzalez says Michigan schools are required to have a program in place to help students who may be a victim of cyberbullying. In serious cases, they may get authorities like Michigan State Police involved.
Here is a list of resources available from Michigan State Police:
Community Mental Health services:
Schedule an appointment: (517) 346-8318 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Crisis services: (517) 346-8460
Michigan State University resources:
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